Today, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari announced that “he would decide when the judges sacked on November 3, 2007 would be reinstated.” Interesting, coming from a man who isn’t an elected member of Parliament, but who still calls the shots. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the iconic 70’s film, The Godfather. Granted, Zardari is not the Don of an Italian family in New York [see images]. Instead, he’s the leader of the majority party in Pakistan. However, their modus operandi is eerily similar. Just like Vito Corleone ran the show for his family, Zardari — at least according to the Pakistani media — often overshadows members of his party who were actually elected to power – including Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The Daily Times reported, “Talking to senior journalists and columnists at Punjab Governor’s House, he said the judicial crisis was one of the major problems Pakistan was facing and that no one could assess the situation better than he could.” Dawn newspaper reported that in his statements, Zardari “downplayed” the recent Long March, asserting, “We know what to call a long march. We know when to call a long march. We know how to conduct a long march. And when the People’s Party calls a long march, then Pakistan will see what a long march really is.” Nevertheless, he asserted the government’s commitment to restoring the judges in a “legal and constitutional manner,” which was further emphasized when they paid the deposed judges their salaries for the last seven months. It would be interesting to see if the PPP’s package to reinstate the judges could be an offer the Parliament can’t refuse.
At the same news conference, Zardari also made several references to the fate of President Pervez Musharraf. According to The News, he emphasized that “the day is not far away when the PPP would induct a man of its own choice in the presidency.” He added that the party “would soon bring a president of its own as it has done in the case of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.” Although both Dawn and The News noted Zardari’s emphasis on the central role the PPP would play in choosing a new president, an article in the Daily Times quoted him saying, “All ruling coalition parties will be consulted regarding the nomination of [the] future president.”
The role of Zardari in the current government is not surprising given the prevalence of personality politics in the country. This dynamic generally results in the rise of charismatic political figures, often at the expense of party politics. Although this may be a political reality in many countries, the case of Zardari is particularly interesting because of his constant references to “democracy,” and his polarized depictions of “anti-democratic forces” versus the democratic process. Today, for instance, he emphasized, “We will follow her [Benazir] and take revenge from anti-democratic forces through democracy.” The fact that Zardari, unelected but unofficially leading the country, can make such statements, is ironic.