September Issue 2008

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 15 years ago

The deed is done. The ‘Sonia Gandhi’ of the PPP has made it to the White House in Islamabad.

Yes, Bhutto’s spouse did say he was not interested in becoming the prime minister of the country. But no one even had an inkling that he might be eyeing the president’s chair, given that the post was expected to be merely ceremonial once the 17th Amendment was shown the door by the coalition partners.

But that was yesterday. Today is another day, and the entire political scenario has changed in the interim. Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari have fallen out over the judge’s issue and the charter of democracy lies in tatters. What’s the big deal, argues the President-elect, charters are not sacrosanct like the words of the Quran or the Hadith. Presumably, the same line of argument will be applied to his promises to revoke the 17th Amendment, which bestows President Zardari with wide-ranging powers, from the appointment of the election commissioner and all the services chiefs, to the dissolution of the National Assembly and the sacking of the prime minister.

Zardari says he will — to borrow an oft-heard phrase from the former president, General Musharraf — try to “balance the powers of the president and the prime minister.”

However, Zardari’s tendency to renege on his promises has earned him the reputation of being untrustworthy. Add to that, the excess baggage he carries from his past — the title of Mr Ten Percent has stuck and the stories of corruption have stayed. If President Zardari wants to establish himself as a credible leader, he will have to start honouring his word from now on.

The odds are stacked against him and his task is not enviable. There are problems galore, from the economic downslide, to the energy crises, to the Balochistan upsurge, to the rising militancy. And each one of these problems is colossal, requiring a meticulous team of experts. Mr Zardari has shown a tendency to appoint wrong people in the right places, inviting strong allegations of cronyism.

If he is serious about turning the country around and giving himself a spanking new image, he has to discard his ‘yaron ka yaar’ persona, appoint the best men and women to the post, formulate a vision statement, roll up his sleeves and get cracking on the job. For once the slogans of ‘Jiye Bhutto’ have died down, Bhutto’s spouse will have to deliver as President Zardari. And this time round, the media has its claws and its fangs out.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.