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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2037

An Honest President, Too Much to Ask?

By Adnan Gill

Pakistan deserves a non-partisan, honest, nay a president of impeccable reputation. Not the one who came to fame through the tales of corruption; not the one whom more people recognize as “Mr. Ten Percent” than by his real name; not the one who is thought to have his brother-in-law assassinated; not the one who had been convicted for money laundering; not the one who Transparency International used as a case study for corruption; not the one who is said to have doctored his wife’s living will; not the one with psychiatric issues; not the one who breaks signed contracts; and certainly not the one who makes unconstitutional deals with dictators. In case anyone is wondering, the above traits are generally associated with the PPP co-chairperson, Asif Ali Zardari.

He maybe the most honest person on the face of Earth. He may be unjustifiably maligned by his alleged enemies, but the bitter reality is the general perception among the Pakistanis remains, he is a man of questionable character at best.

It is said, ‘where there is smoke, there is fire.’ And plenty of smoke rises from Mr. Zardari’s past and present. One could have dismissed allegations against him as hearsay, had the general public from a particular demography perceived him to be corrupt, but question marks surrounding his name seems to be global phenomenon; spanning from the United States to Britain to Switzerland to Dubai to all the way down to the remote villages in the Azad Kashmir. It seems, whole world has heard stories of his alleged corruption.

On August 20, the Newsweek reported, “Zardari, who has always claimed that corruption allegations against him were politically motivated, may be using his growing political clout in Islamabad to pressure Swiss authorities to curtail, or even close, their long-running investigation into his affairs”. Newsweek was right, because the Swiss prosecutor had to withdraw money-laundering charges against him, as the government of Pakistan withdrew the charges.

According to the prestigious institute of the Transparency International, the corrupt practices of Mr. Zardari have shortchanged Pakistanis close to two billion dollars. It reported, “Pakistan is estimated to have lost more than US $2 billion in tariff revenues as a consequence of the greed of Bhutto and her family.”

An investigation initiated by the US Congress found Mr. Zardari’s involvement in money-laundering. According to a Newsweek report, “U.S. officials remain wary of Zardari because of corruption allegations that have swirled around him for years… Zardari earned the nickname of ‘Mr. Ten Percent’ because of allegations that he had received kickbacks on state contracts.” The reports of wariness of the American officials gained credence when The New York Times and The Telegraph published stories of Bush administration’s irritation over contacts with Mr. Zardari and the other over his mental state. The New York Times leaked an e-mail in which senior Bush administration officials angrily questioned Zalmay Khalilzad -- a rabid Pakistan basher and the American ambassador to the United Nations -- over what they describe as unauthorized contacts with Mr. Zardari. Apparently, Khalilzad spoke with Mr. Zardari by telephone several times a week for the past month. Reportedly, Mr. Khalilzad also planned to meet Mr. Zardari in Dubai. Mr. Boucher angrily inquired Khalilzad, “Can I ask what sort of ‘advice and help’ you are providing [to Zardari]?” Perhaps to show Bush administration’s official policy to remain neutral in Pakistani politics, the paper further reported, “Mr. Boucher wrote in an angry e-mail message to Mr. Khalilzad. ‘What sort of channel is this? Governmental, private, personnel?’”

If the NYT report wasn’t damaging enough to Mr. Zardari’s credibility vis-à-vis his bid for the presidency, the British newspaper Telegraph dropped another bombshell on Mr. Zardari’s checkered credibility by questioning his mental vitality to head a nuclear-armed state. It claimed, Mr. Zardari “was diagnosed with a range of psychiatric illnesses, including dementia, major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.” Mr. Zardari’s party rubbished the report as politically motivated piece of fiction. However, none of Mr. Zardari’s apologists explained, how it could have been a made-up story when, as late as 2007, Mr. Zardari voluntarily produced his own medical reports to fight a now defunct English High Court case in which the Pakistani government sued him over the alleged corruption? It was these medical reports from his own doctors that declared him mentally unwell. Nor the apologists explained how a mentally ill person desperately fighting his suicidal impulses and other demons, like dementia and major depression, till the last year, could have miraculously overcame his mental issues within last few months? Naturally, unanswered questions remain, is he still seeking psychiatric therapy? If not then why not? Can a person in need of or receiving psychiatric treatment be trusted with the nuclear button in his hand?

Even if we are to completely dismiss foreign reports as malicious, scandalous and irrelevant propaganda, we are still left with innumerous allegations of corruption stemming from Pakistan, which also put huge question marks next to Mr. Zardari’s bid for the presidency. As a result of the unconstitutional and infamous NRO, NAB removed every shred of information from its website, even remotely linked to Mr. Zardari’s corruption charges and convictions. But the beauty of internet is it archives virtually everything. All one has to do is Google and Mr. Zardari’s rap sheet pops-up immediately. When we say ‘immediately,’ we mean instantly and not 24 hours later or a week or a month latter. With ease, one can still find details on Mr. Zardari’s prosecutions and convictions; including, but not limited to, the infamous BMW case and conviction of 7 years of rigorous imprisonment over the Steel Mill case.

In all honesty, Mr. Zardari didn’t help his already severely blemished image when he repeatedly and brazenly renegade from signed pledges. He callously argued, it’s not like he had violated a Hadith or a verse of Quran. Perhaps, Mr. Zardari isn’t familiar with what Quran and Hadith have to say about breaking promises. Allah commands, “Fulfill the covenant of Allah when you have entered into it and break not your oaths after you have confirmed them; indeed you have made Allah your surety.” (An-Nahl: 91). As far as Hadith goes, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Four (traits) would render the one who is characterized by them an absolute hypocrite, and whoever has one trait of them has one trait of hypocrisy till he gives it up.” Then he mentioned among them “If he gives a pledge he will break it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Understandably, even the HRCP opposed Asif Zardari’s nomination for the Presidency. In a statement, HRCP said, a presidential candidate must have unqualified credibility. It said, “This critical time requires that the ‘symbol of the federation’ should be able to bridge democratic forces rather than be seen as partisan or a manipulative politician.” HRCP further demanded, “Traditions of the past must be retained and a candidate must declare his assets and tax returns publicly,”

Regardless, whether Mr. Zardari had been a victim of decades of malicious, deliberate, organized and petty campaign of character assassination and political victimization, the ground reality remains, justly or unjustifiably, he has too many credibility and trust issues which simply cannot be swept under the rug. He should show dignity and magnanimity by rising above his personal desires by excusing himself from the presidential race, because Pakistan deserves a president of impeccable character and reputation.

- Asian Tribune -

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