Tag Archives: Asif Ali Zardari

Pakistan in ‘India Today’ During 2012 – Part 1

While tracking back the archives for the year 2012 of ‘India Today’ magazine, I came across some interesting ‘cover stories’ pertaining either to Pakistan or the relations between India and Pakistan. This post will provide a review of all those cover stories in series:

Greed vs Guns Edition January 30, 2012

Cover Stories: * Pakistan Crisis, * Greed vs Guns, *Deliberate attempt to incite a Coup *It takes three to Tango, *Judge Dread

 *Pakistan Crisis The cover stories begin by sharing the views of leading Pakistani journalist/columnist and anchor person Naseem Zehra and political anaylst, Farrukh Saleem. Both of them describe the tense political atmosphere among the judiciary, parliament and the army in the wake of memo-gate scandal and the US NAVY SEALs raid in Abbottabad. Farrukh Saleem relates this situation with the ‘Game Theory’ in which all the three entities (namely Supreme Court, General Head Quarters and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party) tend to look after their vested interests. Naseem Zehra, opines that the Judiciary and the Army are on the same page and the Parliament is being used by the ‘government’ against the ‘army-judiciary’ duo.

*Greed vs Guns This piece negates the idea that the meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani on January 14, 2012 was related to the security concerns. It builds the opinion that a military coup was warded off by the President on the condition that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani will not serve as the premier of Pakistan for long. The reason, as presented, lies in the resentment of the COAS against Prime Minister Gillani for his criticism on the army chief’s stance over the ‘memo-gate’ issue in the court. Interestingly, the author mentions that if there had been a ‘coup’, it would have been unique in the Pakistani context. Kayani would have brought a ‘national government’ consisting of ‘non-PPP parties’.

In a historical context, ‘Greeds and Guns’, refers to the perpetual rivalry dwelling in the way of army as ‘an institution’ and Bhuttos as a ‘family’. The narrative argues that Gillani had been following the orders of Zardari (on the Swiss bank case) instead of the Supreme Court and he deserved the notice of ‘contempt of court’.

Related to the reopening of graft-cases against President Zardari, the following statistics were found in the article:

  •  A report prepared by Pakistan’s secret agencies estimates that the Bhutto family allegedly stashed away more than $1.5 billion (Rs.7,500 crore) in Swiss bank accounts. Close aides of Zardari term him a person of “great lust” for whom “money is everything”.
  •  He owns mansions on either side of the English channel. The 365-acre Rockwood estate with a $6.5 million (Rs.32.5 crore) mansion and two farms in Surrey, Britain, and a 16th century chateau in Normandy, France. But it is two specific charges of corruption-a Swiss money-laundering inquiry and a British civil case-that continue to haunt the Zardari presidency.
  •  In 2003, a Swiss magistrate declared he had evidence against Zardari and Bhutto after pursuing a money trail from offshore companies in the Caribbean to banks in Geneva to a jewellery shop. The judge convicted Zardari and Bhutto of money laundering in absentia. He connected Zardari to a chain of corruption cases that began with two Swiss firms which funnelled $11.9 million (Rs.59.5 crore) in bribes to bank accounts in Geneva via three offshore firms in the British Virgin Islands.

The complex and intricate nature of governance in the country is due to the clash between the institutions. Sandeep Unnithan and Qaswar Abbas go further by attributing the collision of institutions with lack of credibility, governance- inefficacy of Pakistan’s establishment and Pakistan’s hand-to-mouth existence that too through the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

On the international fore front, authors state that the Pakistani public does not support the US-Pak relationship. The drone strikes coupled with the memo-gate issue escalated anti-American sentiments. As quoted in ‘Greed vs Gun’;

A popular SMS doing the rounds reads, “America ka jo yaar hai, gaddar hi gaddar hai” (A friend of America is a traitor). The implication: Zardari had betrayed the nation by seeking foreign help. The overseas troika of China, US and Saudi Arabia, key players in Pakistan’s stability, kept a low profile. A US envoy who attempted to visit Pakistan during the ongoing crisis was snubbed, indicating Washington’s diminishing leverage with its ally. There are indications that Zardari’s frequent trips to Dubai may have to do with secret meetings with the powerful Saudi royals.

 * Deliberate attempt to Incite a Coup

 Imran Khan, Politician The government must step down and let the people decide.

Ahmed Quraishi, Defence Analyst The elected government was deliberately provoking a military coup and to come out as martyrs of pro-democracy.The PPP knows that it’ll lose the cases filed against it.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Ex-foreign minister Zardar’s obstinate and dictatorial approach has created a chance of ‘class among key institutions’. He should obey the orders of the Supreme Court.

Shireen M. Mazari, Geostrategist The Pakistani government should have implemented the Supreme Court verdict in true spirit; rather, it has ignited a fight with the army just to earn the sympathy of the masses in view of the forthcoming general elections.

* It takes three to tango

 Madiha Sattar, Journalist Pakistan is seeing a 21st-century version of its lifelong problem of clash-of-institutions.

Aftab Khan Sherpao, Former minister The government was getting into a conflict with state institutions only to divert the masses’ attention from the National Reconciliation Ordinance implementation and Memogate case.

 * Judge Dread

Memogate: Pakistan’s CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry puts the fear of judiciary into the executive, Qaswar Abbas.

end game in Pakistan

Courtesy: India Today Magazine, January 30, 2012.


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India Versus Pakistan – Cricket and Media Diplomacy

Pakistan and India are known as ‘born rivals’. South Asia‘s nuclear powers get entrenched in a fierce competition as soon as they reach the cricket pitch. The days when Pakistan won the world cup of 1992 (under the captaincy of Imran Khan), cricket got famous as an international spectator sport. It receives a warm reception in South Asia, which spates out some fine cricketing legends. India and Pakistan have attempted to take their relations to the cricket stadium.

On December 4, 2008 (less than a month after the Mumbai attacks) an editorial of Times of India stated that “already most teams are reluctant to play in Pakistan because of the terrorist threat. If India, too, is shunned it’s going to be a serious blow to cricket”. The diplomatic ties between the neighbouring countries deteriorated in the wake of the 26/11 attacks (Mumbai attacks). Since then, Pakistan and India have not welcomed bilateral home series.

During the World Cup 2011, the semi-final between India and Pakistan turned into an exceptional event. The match was screened in the streets, cafeterias and even in some educational institutes. The hype reached a level where the, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gillani had to officially call for a half-day holiday. On April 5, 2011, Ian Bremmer, in the Foreign Policy Blog mentioned that the semi-final between India and Pakistan was used by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an opportunity to take a swing at “cricket diplomacy”. The Indian premier invited Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to join him in the stands at Mohali.
Pakistan lost the semi-final.

After five years, Indian and Pakistani players are facing each other in the first bilateral series between India and Pakistan since November 2007. The series consists of two Twenty20 matches and 3 One Day Internationals (ODIs). The Twenty20 matches have been levelled 1/1. Where as, on December 30, 2012, Pakistan won the first ODI. Reports are surfacing about the attendance of President Asif Ali Zardari (Pakistan) and his counterpart President Pranab Mukherjee along with  Prime Minister Manhoman Singh (India) in the remaining two ODIs that will label the winner of the series.

This time the usual fervour, heat and sentiments are being contained through a unique ‘media diplomacy’. The Times of India and the Jang/Geo Group, leading their joint venture of ‘Aman ki Asha‘ (Wish for Peace) are providing live analysis/commentary on the ongoing matches. Broadcasts from the Indian and Pakistani studios are being simultaneously viewed by audience. Once again, politics and cricket have been merged, without substantial break through in the state of stagnancy that exists between the rivals. Relevant enough to support this view, are the statements of Rehman Malik (Pakistan’s interior minister) and Vivek Katju (a retired Indian diplomat).

“When Indians enter Pakistan and when Pakistanis enter India, they should feel like they are coming home,” Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s interior minister, said in New Delhi two weeks ago when the visa agreement was signed. India has issued more than 3,000 visas to Pakistanis for the cricket matches.
“All forms of people-to-people contact, including sports, are important and should be pursued, but never at the cost of our main focus, which is terrorism emanating from Pakistan,” said Vivek Katju, a retired diplomat who has served in Pakistan and was India’s ambassador in Afghanistan.Associated Press

In light of the above, Singh is using cricket as a favourite pastime with the consent of the Pakistani leadership.

Follow over-by-over coverage of the second T20 match between India and Pakistan at Ahmedabad on December 28, 2012.

Indian Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Pakistani Cricket Captain Mohd Hafeez during the unveiling of the T20 trophy ahead of the 1st T20 match against India at Bengaluru on Sunday. (PTI)

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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Political Ticker


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Bilawal: One Without an Equal

The day he was born, his father named him ‘Bilawal’, which means “one without an equal”. He seems to compliment the meaning of his name while getting nourished in the Petri dish of a ‘dynasty- based political culture’. Bilawal’s name, itself, has established a unique example in the naming-system of Pakistani society. Usually the child uses the name of his/her father as the sir name. However, on December 30, 2007, after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal’s full name was revised as ‘Bilawal Bhutto Zardari‘ by his father Asif Ali Zardari. In his teenage he was granted the chairmanship of Pakistan’s largest political party, Pakistan People’s Party. At that time, young Bilawal supported ‘democracy’ as the ‘best revenge’.

On the fifth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, at the age of 24 (which is one year less than the age required to be a part of Pakistan’s Parliament), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari chose the mausoleum of Bhutto family in Gari Khuda Baksh as a launching pad for his political career. The very first political speech by the youngest ever chairman of Pakistan People’s Party, managed to gather 200,000 people from Pakistan. With his voice reflecting the tone of his slain mother, Bilawal registered a complaint in the court of the masses – why the judiciary can’t bring to book the assassins of my mother? The speech was delivered amidst an array of emotions, slogans recalling Benazir and Bhuttoism as an immortal ‘political thought’ in Pakistan.

Being a new entrant in politics, he has been active since the start of 2012. Earlier in May, in an interview given to CNN, Bilawal openly held former despot General Pervez Musharraf responsible for “murdering” his mother by providing her with insufficient security. On the other hand, the party has given illogical explanations over the assassination of Benzir Bhutto to the nation, the day it came into power. The level of bewilderment within the PPP circles can be judged from the contradictory statements given by the party members in one day. Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira (a credible member of PPP) said that one of Benazir Bhutto’s suspected killers was killed in a drone strike where as the remaining accused languish in jail. Bilawal either doesn’t know about it or Kaira forgot to tell him. Few months back, the print media of Pakistan, reported different sources of PPP, which signalled towards the revelation of a list that contained names of those behind the murder of Benazir. The Interior Minister Rehaman Malik stated that the list wasn’t revealed earlier as the permission to do so had to be granted by the Supreme Court. Contrary to Rehman’s argument, the Court ascertained that the government wasn’t duty-bound to seek the permission of any court in the country for revealing names of Benazir’s murderers.

Before launching a political career, the young chairman should be clear about those involved in silencing her mother. An emotionally charged population could always gather around him as the loss of Benazir Bhutto is an irrecoverable tragedy for even those who disagreed with her political notions. He surely is ‘without an equal’, no teenage boy in Pakistan can achieve what he did five years back. The Indian media has projected Bilawal Bhutto Zardari more than Pakistani media (before the official start of his career as a politician). He has been likened to Rajiv Gandhi, but even the Indians confessed his precedence. Both Rajiv and Bilawal, share the same political background with slight differences. However, the Oxford-educated Bilawal unlike the Cambridge-educated Rajiv hasn’t contested a single election till now. A common student in Pakistan opines that it is doubtful whether Bilawal even knows the name of the city that lies next to Goth Shah, in the southern province of Sindh, Pakistan.

bhuttos and GandhisPhoto courtesy: Outlook Magazine August 25, 2008- Weekly News magazine of India


Posted by on December 28, 2012 in Political Ticker


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Remembering Daughter of the East

Remembering Daughter of the East

Benazir Bhutto D o E

Benazir Bhutto (21 June 1953 – 27 December 2007)

One might disagree with her political ideology, but she was a visionary and seasoned politician. Following the legacy of her charismatic father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, she audaciously faced all perils. The father entered the gallows and the daughter intercepted the bullet. Historians will quote her as an example while discussing courage, valour and heroic stances adopted by firm fisted women around the world. During her last address to a public rally in Liaqat Baagh Rawalpindi, Benazir Bhutto seemed not less than a gallant warrior of democracy. Her resolve for rescuing the country from its ‘socio-political quagmire’ strengthened with each word that she delivered on December 27, 2007. Unfortunately, the nation didn’t get a chance to assess the mature political vibrancy of Benazir. The first woman premier of a Muslim country was shot dead soon after she bade farewell to her supporters at Liaqat Baagh. Pakistanis witnessed a second political assassination at the same place (first being that of Liaqat Ali Khan– first premier of Pakistan). The culprits are yet to be discovered and brought to book, for both the tragedies that befell the young nation. Her prognostication about the conditions following, in case of her assassination, turned into reality. ‘My death will serve as a catalyst for change’, said late Benazir.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won the general elections of 2008. The country got rid of Musharraf regime and the judiciary was restored after a long, monotonous struggle of coalition partners that joined the lawyers’ movement. Benazir’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari hailed the party as its vice-chairman and her son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, embraced chairmanship at a young age. The next general elections are round the corner. It is for the first time in the political history of Pakistan that a democratically elected government is likely to complete its constitutional five-year tenure. As per prophecy, her assassination did mark a significant wave of democratic transition. Undoubtedly, Pakistan was enmeshed in innumerable problems like power crisis, faltering economy and the country’s steepening position into the abyss of extremism. The past five years weren’t easy for the subjects and the constituents. Governments’ clash with the judiciary, a chequered relation with the opposition factions and disgruntled allies like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) accounted for a fragile democratic stature. What baffled the most was the considerable deviance of the incumbent government from Benazir Bhutto’s political conviction.

In her first political speech that she has narrated in her book, ‘Daughter of the East’, Benazir argued with Professor Michael Walzer on Pakistan’s inability to provide Bengalis with the right of self-determination. With her quivering lips, young Benazir, silenced an audience of 201 students (1 herself) as she opposed the Professor by stating that the right of self-determination was granted to Bengalis in 1947. It’s a lamentable fact that Pakistan People’s Party under President Zardari didn’t follow the vocal audacity of Benazir to improve Pakistan’s place on the international horizon. I doubt if Shaheed-e-Jamhooriyat (martyr of democracy- the title PPP ascribes with Benazir) would have sent an op-ed to Washington Post in the wake of Abbotabad raid by the US Navy SEALs. From the Movement to Restore Democracy (MRD) to her last publicly signed document, Charter of Democracy (CoD), her dissent for oppression, favour towards political liberty and commitment to democratic values was obvious. She was a confident leader who resisted subjugation and enslavement till her last breath. Another thing that goes to her credit is the way she reassembled the barracks of PPP to ensure that it remains a cohesive political force after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s death.

The recent fragmentation of PPP with the exclusion of someone as important as Shah Mehmood Quraishi and thwarting echoes of members like Zulfiqar Mirza, depicts the inefficacy of today’s PPP to contain separatist divergence. A leadership which cannot serve as a unifier has a tendency to misgovern the country.
Although the post-Benazir PPP attempted to revive concepts of ‘political reconciliation’ and national integration through coalitions and National Finance Commission Award, respectively. It takes performance and administrative efficiency to reside in the hearts of the masses. Benazir Bhutto wasn’t an adept administrator as well, but a visionary leader who possessed political acumen. The ideological liberalism of the PPP requires a projection through governance strategies, articulation of public sentiments and clear political orientations. The nation poured in sympathy votes the last time as a token of homage to brave Benazir. Upcoming elections will conclude in accordance with the performance of Zardari-led PPP. The essential Bhuttoism isn’t that pure now as late Benazir mentions in Daughter of the East:

“My father’s imprint on me, however, keeps me going.
Endurance. Honour. Principle.
In the stories my father used to tell us as children, the Bhuttos always
won a moral fight.”

Benazir the lady

Benazir the lady (Photo credit: liber(the poet);)

This blog post has also been published as ‘Tribute to Benazir Bhutto’ in The News International Blog


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Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Random Scape


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Why the General Elections of 2013 in Pakistan will be Unique?

This audio identifies the factors that make the general elections of Pakistan in 2013, unique and historic.

(Click the play button above to listen)

Editorial Content of the Audio

Pakistan’s road towards democracy has been full of hurdles. The incumbent ruling coalition of the Pakistan People’s Party ( also known as the PPP) is the first democratically elected government in the history of Pakistan to complete its five-year term. However, the nation paid a heavy price for this. PPP’s leader and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after addressing a public rally in Liaqat Baagh Rawalpindi just when the elections of 2008 under General Musharraf were around the corner.

The dictator was ousted by the lawyers’ movement that supported the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Pakistan People’s Party marked an important democratic transition under the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari (widower of late Benazir Bhutto). Despite heavy criticism from the opposition for PPP’s bad governance, ill-management of energy crisis and record levels of corruption, the party is moving towards the end of its complete term.

The general elections of 2013 will be unique for a number of reasons.

To name a major few;

  • it is for the first time that political parties got a time span of 5 years to engage with the local population.
  • Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician has attracted a sizeable number of youth that constitutes more than half of the total population of Pakistan. Ascribing the word Tsunami with it, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf under the leadership of Imran Khan presents itself as a symbol for change in Pakistan.
  • It is for the first time that politicians are using social media, information networks like Twitter to reach the masses.
  • Public rallies were in full swing during the years 2011 and 2012. Including the historic public address of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Chief Imran Khan.
  • The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is constantly working to ensure that the elections in 2013 should be free and fair by all means.
  • The Supreme Court of Pakistan made some unprecedented verdicts on the socio-political issues of the country including reforms in the electoral process.
  • The upcoming general elections will be the most expensive ones in the history of Pakistan. The ECP has estimated that Rs 5.90 billion in expenses will be incurred during the election compared to Rs 1.45 billion spent in 2008. Moreover, the 180 million ballot papers printed for the election will be watermarked!
  • Last but not the least, ‘political songs’ echoed the most in rallies of Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. Pop singer Abrar ul Haq sided with Imran Khan and Fakhir Mehmood, another singer of Pakistan, joined Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.pakistan_elections

 What is left to be seen is that how these factors will mould voting behaviour in Pakistan where most of the voters are ’emotionally-charged’ and literacy rate isn’t satisfactory.

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Audio


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