Articles of the year 2009

A Leader Comes of Age
Published on July 04th, 2009

President Zardari appeared on the world stage after his wife's tragic demise and took the mantle of power from the vacuum created by her absence. In reality there was no other candidate. Period. Looking at the PPP hierarchy at that time there was no one who could have even tried. So the Nahid Khans et al just faded away into that part of history reserved for the non-starters, not even the has been. They had thrived and lived upon the reflected glory of Benazir, and were beholden to her for every part of her largesse, which she was generous with, but very careful in controlling the dispensation thereof. She brooked no nonsense from her followers, or from anybody else for that matter.

After her death we watched the events unfold at dazzling speed, with Asif having recovered his composure before anyone else. He set about assembling his team from a handful of close confidantes while keeping an eye on the religious procedures and attending to all the dignitaries who flocked to pay their last respects. All the rites were held with dignity and there was only the massive grief visible as thousands gathered at their beloved Benazir's final resting place. The enormity of the task that lay ahead of Asif, was immense, as all the enemies and factions grouping into power centres were targeting the biggest political machine in Pakistan, with the largest committed vote bank - that had developed a cult status of its own. This then was the prize that was at stake.

The PPP had already been broken into factions. So great was the original following, that the PPP ticket was the one sure way to the assembly and this came about because of the intense loyalty from its rank and file. This, then, was the crux of the charm of the Party, that made it so desirable. The PPP ticket was the political must have, for anyone with ambition.

Asif Zardari moved quickly - first to establish his credentials. This he did by appointing his son as chairman and himself as co-chairman. He also ensured that everyone in the CEC of the PPP was on board, and the members very quickly realised the unforgiving nature of the man - and complied. In political life there is only one leader. As Benazir's husband he had learned the techniques of 'man management'. Now he put this knowledge to work. I have stated in an earlier article that Asif Zardari has always been an able administrator. Someone, whose instructions once given are carried out. Regardless. In the civil service years are spent teaching an officer not only how to give a command, but more effectively how to have the command obeyed. This is the prime quality of an effective administrator. And it is this aspect of Asif that has brought about his main successes. Considered dispassionately, his performance to date has been nothing short of phenomenal. Consider: Until the demise of Benazir Asif had been vilified, branded as corrupt and relegated to the backburner. After her death, he took over first the CEC, and then the Party. He took all the major decisions, and succeeded in getting Yousuf Raza Gilani nominated and then elected unopposed PM of the National Assembly. He went on to have his nominee Farooq Naek elected unopposed as chairman Senate. He has succeeded beyond the wildest expectations of the party workers, as the most successful leader of the PPP including his late wife. It seems he has been a good student of politics, and the years he spent in prison - reading up on politics has paid off.

What is more is that he has addressed the joint session not once but twice to a rapt audience, for the first time in Pakistan's history. No chanting - Go Baba Go. No images of a sweating unnerved general president giving a sigh of relief when he finished his address. Asif's two addresses were silk smooth by comparison. These achievements are well known to the US and the British governments, hence their support.

On the domestic political front he has set the bar impossibly high for anyone to follow. However, his team needs to get its act together, and start delivering on portfolios allotted them. The Ministry of Power it seems may be the chink in the armour and may lead to not just a fall of government, but a revolution that would tear the country apart.

Meanwhile all the other political soothsayers are predicting an early demise of his government. The reality is different - Asif is on a roll and his political touch has been infallible.