Busting the Myth of Zardari

Busting the Myth of Zardari

Is he really the king of Byzantium, the grand master of intrigue, the uncrowned political oracle?  Four years into his term despite all odds and even his detractors have come to peddle with glee his mythical abilities. Leading media analysts eulogize President’s panache for conjuring rabbits out of thin air, his brilliance in stitching opposites together. The evidence cited is his longevity at the perch despite gale force winds, judicial thunder and media lightening. To set the record straight, he has indeed survived a range of crises. From Memogate to judicial rubbishing of NRO to disqualification of his PM and a public sector eyeballing bankruptcy, President has courted crises like Don Juan did nymphets.


Yet he is around, unfazed and unperturbed behind the impregnable walls of Presidency.  But is that the whole story? Does he really deserve the titles being bestowed on him?  While he certainly deserves a pat on the back for his street smartness, the real perpetuators of his stay have been the conspiring circumstances. A unique confluence of factors beyond President’s control strait-jacketing the very forces that have long hewn the course for Pakistan.



Three key factors have helped President Zardari survive the judicial/media onslaught despite unprecedented mismanagement. Foremost has been Army’s aversion to intervene for several reasons.  Haunted by Musharaff’s poisonous legacy, devastated by the discovery of Osama in its own backyard, Army has taken hits smack in the face and now carries a swollen, bloody nose. Forced to operate in the shadows to recuperate and rebuild, Army may be seething with anger but has lost the moral halo and the aura of invincibility.



An extremely assertive Judiciary bent on claiming space in the national discourse and its public rebukes of military takeovers has only pushed army further on the back foot. Army’s messianic fervour, therefore, stands dampened all the more so given their full time occupation with the war on terror. That Nawaz is no more a credible alternative in the eyes of Army has also helped President Zardari in no less a measure. The biggest threat contained, President could focus all his wile on navigating through the judicial chasms and the media storms.



Tired of Army’s duplicity in the war on terror, West put its weight behind the elected civilian government.  Military had been tried and tested before. That Zardari frittered away the support in the Western capitals is a consequence of monumental bad governance on his watch. Thirdly, President has been demonstrating great panache in keeping his greedy coalition partners satiated.



A testimony to his wheeling dealing skills was at display again when Raja Riaz was able to secure 211 votes while he needed only 172. That President has been able to rein in both ANP and MQM despite having competing interests is also a study in flexibility and graft. His alliance with PML-Q is perhaps the icing on the cake given PPP’s historic hatred of Chaudhrys of Gujrat. In short, possessed by the desire to stay in office come what may, President has had a no holds barred tango with the willing partners pulling out all stops to woo and seduce few at the expense of many.



The bottom line is that Zardari is still there having successfully ridden the worst of storms. But what about corruption and bad governance, nation’s bed fellows for the last four years? Our tendency to see Zardari’s dogged survival in isolation blinds us to the disasters that happened on his watch. Yes he is there but at what cost to Pakistan?  Is mere survival a commendable end when all else is falling apart? These questions have to be answered to make a conclusive judgment on Zardari. Truth is Karachi drowned in blood on president’s watch.  This happened despite the fact that the major claimants of Karachi (MQM, PPP and ANP) are all part of the ruling coalition. So why have they not been able to sort Karachi out?



The answer is incompetency, blatant greed and indifference of frightening proportions.  Less said about the economy the better. This government holds the dubious distinction of being the biggest borrower in our history. How will this debt be paid off remains a mystery. Perhaps by printing notes which will only compound the already rampaging inflation.  Public sector enterprises like PIA, Pakistan Steel, and Pakistan Railways have caved in under the weight of corruption, gross mismanagement. The crowning glory is the unprecedented power crisis, the likes of which Pakistan has not seen.  Hundreds of industrial units have shut down and millions rendered jobless. Most embarrassing has been the disqualification of President’s own PM, who embraced martyrdom (sic) fighting a shameless war to protect his President’s loot.



It is obvious that President owes his longevity to others than any innate brilliance at political intrigue.  Zardari may have won the battle of survival but he has lost the war. Public polls increasingly testify to an astonishing loss of popular support for PPP. Given the magnitude of his failures in governance, the preeminent responsibility of a government, his claim to fame for being the ultimate survivor carries little weight. Zardari’s myth, therefore, stands busted.

Hasnain Iqbal

The blogger contributes for The News/Geo blogs

  • S Nasrullah

    Pretty purposive and powerful prose, Mr H Iqbal. It testifies a record well reasoned. Indeed, many educated and enlightened US compatriots of Pakistan origin have been discussing the miracle of Zardari’s longevity in the political arena where his illustrious predecessors could not last three years. People are rightly tired of the military megalomaniacs who have disrupted and damaged the National outlook and output more than what they thought they could improve upon. This held them in check. The friendly Opposition by a nutty PML of NS stood exposed of their follies and the frailties and the people are in no mood to align themselves with a toothless tiger. It is to the great art of cunning and criminality of AAZ that he has bribed ort blackmailed the politicians opf other stripes to stay glued to his gimmicks and gumption.
    I agree with your conclusions, with a pinch of salt, that in the election of the PM and the other Bye Elections, PPP fared well despite tumbling down a path of decline.

  • zaryab

    good piece hasnain…zaryab this side

  • Hassan

    This nation will again vote for PPP because of illiteracy and traditions. By elections are good example of it. Furthermore, the nation deserves it where each individual is corrupt in his/her capacity from peon to president. There are few individuals who are trying to do good job and is in vain. Every work needs a team and corrupt people have a good team and honest in their corruption.

  • Solution is public

    The real remedy of all these problems lies in the public. We need to focus on awareness and once the public remains on roads till there right is delivered the real change will start. We cannot say the such and such party or person could make everything right as the places were are having hope from all are one man show and depends the teperament of that one man that is not a system.

  • Pakistani

    may be a good analysis.
    Author has used so so many difficult English words .. I think Google translator has been used because so many latin, Italian and french words are there. My dictionary doesn’t have most of the words. Sometimes I think that for what kind of people these columnists write ?? If an average person in English, starts reading the first para, I dont think he will go forward to read further. I have never found such a difficult language in Washington post or BBC although English is their native.
    I wish I could understand the article and what the author wants to convey.

    • Ahmed Zeeshan

      Yups…same happened with me…after reading first line i immediately scrolled down to read comments made by the readers:)

    • millerd

      Your comment interest me. Actually the writer has used a lot of metamorphic utterance beside using foreign lexical this makes the reading more complex. He speaks of Zardari’s tenacity to exploit and manipulate his coalition partners and achieve his goals.

      The writer personifies , Zardari’s , astute and enticing skills of throwing in the right bait, to attract the most evading and elusive fish.

      With his near perfect understanding of how to lure , trap and keep the coalition partners of diverse interest and needs , is his single most surviving quality which has kept his government from disintegrating.

      In my opinion Zardari has been able to rein in the coalition, because he has an in-depth knowledge of how power and greed works. He know the lethality of the mixed potion.He understands, PMLQ is lured by greed, so he keeps them appeased by giving cabinet posts as they desire or even creating one for them.

      MQM wants unimpeded control of all areas of its vote bank in Sindh. The issue here is the power. Zardari’s unfettered access to decision making in the party eases him to deliver the demands of his coalition partners with impunity.

      He understands, if he is able to keep the big boss in London happy , he has bagged the MQM..

      The Article is analytical in nature. It looks Zardari as a phenomena that undercuts all values of decency , fair play and good governance.

  • Zameer

    This is a turmoil of our nation that beggers have become choosers.Only thing that has been benchmarked in the last 63 years is corruption.I sincerely hope that Imran can bring about a change .No political party has a vision or direction to lead Pakistan.Lets hope and pray that all the evil politicians backing the Government of American puppets will end soon

  • Musa

    i think also the fact that apart from Mr. Zardari everyone else is a long term player whereas the president himself is a short term player. He’s using all the long term players against each other.

  • http://twitter.com/SeeShowAll C$how

    Very burdensome expression. Verbosity and excessively ornate diction has stripped the content the vitality and naturalness of expression. SIMPLY SAID, IT WAS A GOOD PIECE OF ANALYSIS WITH NOT GOOD EXPRESSION.

  • hansa

    zardari must have learnt may be one of the biggest lesson of his life( which by the way nawaz sharif failed to learn) while in jail is that, “if u cant beat them, join them”, and thats exactly what he did. he knew witch hunting his opponents on corruption and misgovernance has always backfired in the past on his wifes government and the governments before her. so he cuuningly bought and joined them all and taught ordinary citizens of pakistan one big lesson, “thats what u have to do in order to survive in pakistan”.

  • Nayab Oqaab

    -czar-dari (most appropriate name, the one who loves money) has over 25 billions sitting in off shore banks (all stolen, of course). pakistani politicians LOVE money. show them a few greebacks and they’ll do any thing, no questions asked. so, that’s the majic wand rather than any innate attribute of the ‘president’.

  • Reality Check

    Come on Husnain, don’t you dare to challenge the intellegency of pakistanis by comparing Zardari with King of Bazantium. It seems you have no knowledge of his past but splashed an artcle that have no head or tail. It is not him or his brain that he has hold on power this long but helping soulders from all the parties even though from opposition. Please do not make him something which he is not ! Let me tell you one thing, if you have written this article to praise zardari then I am sorry to say that you definitly needed a medication which can increase you brain cells with better and improved thinking. Zardari is ony sitting there because of those piliticians whether in government or oppositione who can not any more bear the thought of bringing Marshal Law again.

  • Ironsheik

    The point was?

  • Abbas

    Four years back there was only ONE ZARDARI. Now we have Zardai’s every where. Credit goes to him. From top to bottom, from left to right, you will find a person some times of his status and in few cases much more above than the Zardari status. This includes Irsalan Iftikhar, Malik Riaz, Saleh hayat, Pervaiz Ashraf, and entire Gilinai family, Shuhab uddin, Khusnood Lashari, Ellahi brothers and family, Maula Fazal and his brothers, OMG – The list shall never end. You must due credit to H.E. A A Zardari.

    • Insaan

      Don’t forget some of our journalists also, like Mehr Bhukhari & Mubbassir Luqman who also have a reflection of zardari’s character ..shame ..

  • sifzal

    I fear that people may stll vote for zardari’s PPP simply because his current assembly members do have a strong hold in their constituencies and most of the common and poor people are simply burried under their ‘favours’. I wish this be changed at least this time that people vote for the motherland and not for their masters under fear

  • Part Time Analyst

    Are we judging his ability to face crisis in the context of Real Politik or in terms of his performance? Since the difference of criteria may drastically affect our judgement, we may deal with the two themes separately. Performance may attract opinions altogether contriving but politically analysing the guy has truly outsmarted all contestants. What do you think?

  • inam

    So are we applauding the person who is ruling Pakistan of Jinnah ? the person who had a medical certificate saying mental disordar during his jail time? or His strategy is to bring corrupt people in his government so he can easily assess the price …
    public is so busy in the issues …created by this govt. and near election again will come some emotional scene to gain support ..we shall give hope and support to a leader who wants to bring justice in this country.. Imran khan can be that one but needs to go strongly against Zardari in sindh perhaps…

  • TARI

    Yes! Its not a good analysis but just a word game. Either ppp has won the battle or lost the war (something like this the author analyzed) but whatever the case is. The democracy should prevail in any case. This is the guarantee of the stability of our Pakistan.

    Pakistan Zindabad

  • imran

    we lost our values and identity……we as nation going no where in complete darkness………he is not only the wolf all other including Molvis,army,opposition,alliens and media play there part to destroy this nation just for the sake of their greed.

  • Zarri Hashmi

    We all know journalism is a home grown mafia now. They are paid for thugs who will write anything for anyone, one just needs to throw a few bones in their direction. They are all for sale and one only needs to name the correct price. As for Zardari, most of us Pakistanis forget “We will provide you with a ruler who is a mere image of yourself” so we are all corrupt and for sale so stop pointing a finger at others as the other three fingers point right back at you. We need to sort ourselves out first then have a go at the rulers. They are from among us and as long as we elect we will always elect corrupt people as we chose in our mere image. Thank you

  • Jahangir

    Poorly researched article. If you are going to write something at least compare Zardari’s Karachi record with previous Zia, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir’s Karachi period. Also while you write you have forgotten the biggest carnages of Zardari’s period i.e. those perpetrated by religious extremists on Shias and qadianis.
    The key point you are missing is Zardar’s willingness to “share” power vs. consolidating it under him. Punjab is run by PML N, ANP has a free hand in NWFP, MQM is not crushed but has been given the opportunity to represent it’s people. This is the Zardari’s positive legacy, not to ignore his past record of corruption

  • Ali Sher Mussali

    Fact is that no organization even Army, Judiciary, Macho Media, Right wing political parties and factions can not save Pakistan other than PPP ( a majority federal party). PPP has presence everywhere in Pakistan. Other than PPP Pakistan Army is the only organization which has presence all over in Pakistan but PA is not representative because this organization has no local representative like PPP. So lets rely on PPP if we need to see integrated Pakistan

  • M.Saeed

    !-If Zamin-dari means business of a Land-lord, Zar-dari should only mean business of a Gold-lord and that is what he is.
    During “Benazir-Dour”, he engineered and got installed in place for his exclusive exploits, the rules to import any amount of gold, just by paying 2% tax.2-Then, during his 3 plus year’s stay in the States, even Benazir was on record to state that, she avoided Zardari when ever she viasited America because of the highly un-presentable company he maintained there.3-There was also a record of over 200 medical certificates from highly credible medical professionals of the states that he presented to “Swiss Courts” certifying his “mental inability” to go through the court proceedings.4-Now, let us see who was the Godfather of Zardari family in Dubai, when he was in prisons?5-Z.A.Bhutto seriously disliked Hakim Ali Zardari who had to go into exile due to fear of Z.A Bhutto. How come he managed to get married with Benazir dispite all the back-ground family friction?

    There are many other intriguing questions still waiting for answers and only an honest future investigation having no Zardari-shadow, will give clear answers.

    • Anonymous

      Saeed Sb,
      The jiyalas never mention those medical certificates but blame the courts for not having concluded trials. Certainly brings into question the US medical professionals issuing those certificates (Perhaps Hashmi Sb will recnsider his utter faith in an MD too!) – the ECP is certainly culable toofir ignoring this issue even if no opponent raised it at election time including the degree requirement.

  • Anonymous

    NASAH Sb
    That is a disaster in waiting – whilst removal of an elected person by means other then an election is not ideal, the abuse of judicial verdicts (and in this case not a wrong one either in legal terms) by any elected person will render his high moral status to base in any civilised democratic system. PMs, presidents and CJs come and go but law would have to remain equally applicable to ALL if stability is to be had in Pakistan. Gillani did no service to cause of democracy or the people by not obeying the court order.

    Zardari may be a master manipulator by virtue of his recognition of human weakness fir power and wealth but all that adds absolutely zero value to building a stable society – in fact more polarization is the result. So much for democracy where one man controls hundreds of elected parliamentarians vote – that ist clause needing amendment so free vote can be excercised on basis of conscience.

    • NASAH (USA)

      Qalim sb — firing a PM by a judge is not a question of an ideal solution — it is patently crazy — no country does that — especially to such an insecure parliamentary form of government that has repeatedly been hijacked by military takeovers every 5 years — it is a paramount act of destabilizing an already unstable country — and then coming up with such an irresponsible flippant remark that Supremacy of the Parliament — the institution that makes the Constitution and amends it by parliamentary majority — is an outdated concept of an outdated institution? Then whose job it is — to make it and amend it — the army’s or the judge’s?

      I think the judge is too tired to think straight — it is time for him to go on long leave — or take an early retirement.

  • ali

    Yes Zardari is hanging in there because of his street intelligence( he has spent a lot of time on the streets of Sindh) and wheeling dealing. If his senior PP leaders were alive then he would not have been able to do what he is doing now to keep himself in power. Also Shareef provided him with a friendly opposition and the army lost some of its image because of the Bin Laden fiasco and the attack on the Naval Base in Karachi, besides the army knows now that an army government will not be acceptable to the international community.The government the biggest borrower in the history but when the time comes to pay back they want be around anyways so they don`t give a damn.

  • Anonymous

    NASAH Sb

    Pity the Pakistani politicians weakened the cause of democracy by passing a dividing law on contempt. No doubt some other politician will take it to court and they will have little option but to strike it down. The whole thing sets a bad precedent – is bad both for the parliament and te judiciary and could have been avoided if the parliamentarians had had their heads out from some one else’s backyard on this one and excercised free choice by becoming a moral objector. Democracy has suffered at the hands of its alleged champions today and people like Najam Sethi with their belief that politics is always devoid of morality, are one up.

  • Anonymous

    NASAH Sb

    How do you see the Egytian Court’s action – sending the whole Parliament packing?!

  • jawjam

    Despite all the odds, in my opinion professor zardari with all his calculations is going to stay in presidency for another five years with his all time favorite and popular give and take deals to everybody in or out of coalition of which major beneficiary is N league. May ALLAH bless and protect us all from them.