It is not difficult to understand why there is a thick tension in the air as Pakistan prepares for a Zardari presidency. For two decades now Asif Ali Zardari has been the object of establishment, middle class and educated elite contempt. Just because the educated liberals and urban conservatives in Pakistan don’t like Mr Zardari, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be president. Pakistanis have a habit of personifying national failure in the shape of individuals. It is time to ditch old habits, and embrace democracy.
Within the tradition of personifying national failure, General Ziaul Haq is perhaps the favourite of the English-language babus. It is amazing how Zia single handedly created religious fanaticism, turned the country into Ronald Reagan’s hand-maiden and gave rise to all the evil that lurks in Tora Bora and straddles the Durand Line. If Zia is at the top of the list, Zulfi Bhutto is a not too distant second. The most recent addition to the arsenal of both liberals and conservatives is of course the recently retired and resigned Pervez Musharraf. In many ways he trumps both Bhutto and Zia in villainous magnitude – combining the supposed institutional appetite for fanaticism, with his personal appetite for the finer things in life. Now, the knives are sharpening and September 6 is almost upon us. If and when Mr Zardari finally does take office, many Pakistanis will cringe, and weep and turn off the television in disgust.