July Issue 2015
Cover Story: The Reckoning
It is not yet an all-out declaration of hostilities but the long lingering distrust between the Asif Zardari-led PPP and the military establishment is in the full media glare now. Whether it will lead to any change in the power equation in Sindh in the near- or mid-term or culminate in another uneasy political stalemate remains a pertinent question. One part of the answer to this question depends on the flexibility of Zardari, who is called a doctor by some of his admirers for his pragmatic solutions to grave problems. The other rests on how far top security officials are willing to push the envelope in their attempt to fix Sindh, and particularly Karachi, where crime and politics go hand-in-hand.
For Zardari and his loyalists, the PPP is again being pushed to the wall as they accuse the ‘military establishment’ of overstepping its domain. The reason behind Zardari’s concerns is the way the Rangers openly accused influential politicians from Sindh of having ties with criminal and terrorist mafias in a statement issued on June 11. However, what angered and panicked many of the PPP stalwarts most were the follow-up actions by the Rangers that included a raid at the Sindh Building Control Authority and arrest of the alleged corrupt officials seen as being close to the PPP high command.
“If you do not stop, I will come out with a list of generals [accused of corruption] since Pakistan’s creation,” Zardari said in a hard-hitting speech while addressing an oath taking ceremony of newly-elected office bearers from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), in Islamabad, before a charged crowd of party followers. “The army chiefs come and go every three years, but the political leadership stays,” the former president said, raising the tension level with the security establishment.
Even for many senior PPP officials, Zardari’s harsh words targeting the military top brass appeared out of sync with the public image he has carefully carved out for himself as a leader advocating national reconciliation, following the assassination of his wife and party chairperson, Benazir Bhutto.
All the anti-establishment opinions which Zardari expressed in whispers, behind closed doors and in small unofficial gatherings, became official as he took on the mighty establishment brazenly and openly in the wake of renewed focus of the Rangers on corruption, along with fighting terrorism and crime in urban Sindh. However, Zardari’s anti-army tirade is being seen even by some of his close associates as the mark of desperation rather than a well thought-out strategy.
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Amir Zia is a senior Pakistan-based journalist who has worked for leading international and national media organizations, including Reuters, AP, Gulf News, The News, Samaa TV, and Newsline. He currently works for the Bol media group.