A pathway to nowhere By Ardeshir Cowasjee

Mr Zardari should refrain from making any public statements, either as president or party co-chairman as he does no favours to the office of head of state or to his party’s moral standing. —APP Photo
Mr Zardari should refrain from making any public statements, either as president or party co-chairman as he does no favours to the office of head of state or to his party’s moral standing. —APP Photo

KARACHI had an inauspicious start to Twenty Ten. Shutters were firmly down on new year’s day all over town, petrol pumps were surrounded by barricades, traffic was skeletal and a general air of gloom and doom prevailed.

Concerning the happenings on Muharram 10, last Monday, rumours abound and grow with each passing day.

There is an SMS doing the rounds: “To be noted! Bomb blast at 4:30 pm at Lighthouse intersection. Shops set on fire at 4:22 pm with chemicals by gangsters for a length of 2 km till Bolton Market. City Government Fire Brigade reached after 4 hours. All shops closed but by 4 am in morning thousands of banners hanging in the city. Pattern of selective targets is evident. Who gains by removal of old buildings & markets?”

A Dawn headline yesterday: ‘Arson attacks were preplanned: Malik’. Our ‘Knowall’ has spoken. As Hercule Poirot would enquire: Qui bono?

An early news report told us that the TTP had owned up to the blast said to be triggered by a suicide bomber but a report of Jan 1 advises that a TTP individual may well have spoken but the party leadership “has nothing to do with his statement”. So that would seem to be that. The general consensus is that the blast was not caused by a seeker of a direct route to paradise. So, we must ask, ‘who dun it?’ Chances are we will never know, though our suspicions will be strong. Something may be gleaned in the coming months when the owners of the properties put to fire are approached by whomsoever.

One other notable happening on the day preceding the bomb blast was the blast delivered by our president. Asif Zardari’s speech has been thrashed almost to death by our press commentators – and deservedly so as it was as far from being a presidential address as could be. Apart from the ranting and raving against unnamed unidentifiable ‘non-state actors’ and the conspiracies hatched against Zardari and his men and women, it smacked, in a way, of a guilty conscience.

Perhaps, underneath all the bluff and bluster there is the sniff of a conscience – or could it be just worry that the NRO decision might deprive him of some of his massive wealth if the state machinery, at judicial urgings, gets into gear?

For sure, only Zardari and his former legal counsel know the truth as to whether there is any substance in the alleged corruption charges brought against Zardari and, if there be, of how much the national exchequer has been relieved. The affable Farook Naek, now rightly rewarded, shot up as Senate chairman (and acting president), definitely deserves a ‘chand’ for staving off for so many years all decisions in the multiple cases filed against his former client.

For his own good and in the larger national interest so as not to sow more disquiet than now exists all over the country, Mr Zardari should refrain from making any public statements, either as president or party co-chairman as he does no favours to the office of head of state or to his party’s moral standing. He should also be protected from appearing on the interminable talk shows which afflict our television screens and from further muddying the situation as he did on new year’s eve when he added ‘political actors’ to the list of those conspiring against him.

Anyhow and whatever, Asif Zardari is neither the cause of nor the solution to this country’s problems. If we are with or without him the problems are going nowhere – as is Zardari going nowhere. He will stick it out – contrary to the wishful thinkers he is not a runner. The time has long past since in our case salvation can only lie in our adopting the old line – off with the old and on with the new.

There can be no progress on any front for as long as the ballot box fillers (said to be a mere 30 per cent of the listed voters) persist in bringing back to sit atop of them those that have been with us since 1985 onwards with rot being added to the ranks at each dismal election that has taken place.

Take for example, Zardari’s nominated prime minister, helpless he may be but he is still capable of doing wrong and doing harm. What was the point of the galivant to Gwadar last week, just what did it prove or help? He took with him that national disgrace, the monstrous cabinet, plus all sorts of extras, and going by a report in this paper on Friday it cost us few taxpayers many a million, “the most expensive cabinet meeting in the country’s history”. And this, after having, a few days prior to the picnic, uttered on the adoption by his government of austerity measures. Austerity, my foot !

Fine, the NFC award was signed. But then we had more false promises about the prime ministerial third term ban being got rid of along with power related provisions of the 17th Amendment.

Two days later, reported in the press was that all this would happen by the end of March, which translated into real terms indicates that nothing of the sort will happen. A happy new year indeed!


Credits: Dawn (Ardeshir Cowasjee)

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