The Zardari we do not get to know

Published: May 31, 2010
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The man believed to be one of the richest in Pakistan has simple tastes.

The man believed to be one of the richest in Pakistan has simple tastes.

KARACHI: Considered as one of the most powerful personalities of the country, President Asif Ali Zardari in his private life presents a picture very different from what is portrayed by both the national and international media.

On his recent visit to Karachi, The Express Tribune pieced together the way Mr President lives – what his likes and dislikes are, who he meets, and what he does when he wants to relax.

A humble personality by appearance but also seen as an arrogant party chief, Zardari is very much a family man. He makes it a point to make time for his family members, especially when he comes to Karachi. Every day, he calls his father, Hakim Ali Zardari, at different times to check on his health. The elder Zardari has been unwell of late and has been receiving treatment at a local hospital.

In the same manner, Zardari also keeps tabs on his children. Usually talking to them at least once a day, he takes their calls even when in official meetings. Asif Ali Zardari also makes it a point to have lunch with his father as often as he can when in Karachi.

The eating habits of our leaders have been a source of much discussion in the past. Not so with Asif Zardari, who is not particularly fond of eating say his personal staff members.

He has a set choice of menu. “Asif Saheb takes toasted brown bread, a choice of egg with a glass of milk or a fresh juice for breakfast,” says an attendant, adding “For meals, he likes simple daal and rice with mixed vegetables.” In case he has guests over, then special arrangements are made for meat items like chicken roast or fried fish.

Another staff member at Bilawal House said that depending upon his mood, Zardari has a taste for mushroom Pizza which is usually ordered from the Marriott Hotel.  He also likes Pakoras, which he asks the cook to make on evenings. But of late, this has been discontinued, possibly because of his busy schedule.

A close associate of Zardari said that the president earlier smoked heavily but now he has now quit smoking mainly on request of his daughters. “He smoked Dunhill cigarettes and it would appear at times that he would not inhale but puffed just to chill with friends,” the associate said.

Despite news stories that claim that Zardari is one of the richest men in Pakistan, his clothes remain simple on most days. Zardari has a simple sense of style and likes to wear wash and wear material or fall material Shalwar Kameez with handmade Sindhi Topis. The Topis are gifted to him mostly by prisoners in jail.

On his international tours, the President prefers to choose from his collection of branded 3 piece suits, which he usually purchases on his trips to Dubai.

Another attendant disclosed that Zardari neither uses the office of his wife – late Benazir Bhutto nor does he sleep in the bedroom where she used to sleep in Bilawal House.  He spends most of the time in a newly built annexe close to BB’s drawing room where she met party leaders and workers. “Nobody knows why and nobody dares ask why.” stated a worker at Bilawal House when asked Zardari’s reluctance to sleep in his old quarters.

The president, as per official protocol, is usually accompanied by two military secretaries on his visits. These two schedule his political and official meetings for him.

However, Zardari is quite flexible with his meetings. If some family member or friend shows up without a schedule, then they approach the personal attendants of Zardari who arrange such meetings for him.

It may be mentioned here that the regular personal visitors include Rehman Malik, Zulfikar Mirza and Agha Siraj Durrani who have the liberty to barge into Zardari’s room at any time except when it is really late in the night. In such a situation, proper intimation has to be given as Zardari is made to compromise on his sleep.

According to a very close friend of Zardari, the president is usually very charming. “Generally he treats everyone nicely. He inquires about their health and their family members.” But on some occasions when he is irritable, the niceties end there.

“When people try to attack him verbally, he is usually quite calm and composed. But then there are times when he is irritable and on such occasions he sometimes loses his temper.”

“Saheb baba dadho gussey jo tez ha. Asaan unhi j samhoon na wenda ahyun jadhein saheb khay khaar hondi ahay. Jeko samoon ayo te unhi g shaamat,” commented one family retainer. (Zardari Saheb has a very bad temper. We don’t appear in front of him when he is angry. Whoever comes in front of him at that time is in deep trouble.)

Another long-running joke amongst friends is the remarks that Zardari made to US Vice President candidate Sarah Palin. Friends usually tease him about his remarks.  “We often tease AZ saying that he is aging now as he literaly fell for Sarah Palin because she was too old for him,” giggled the businessman turned politician friend of Zardari.

A local leader and member of the provincial assembly was contacted to find out how Zardari addressed senior members of his party said that it depended upon occasions and his state of mind at the time.

“Usually he is nice but quick with everyone and doesn’t like the drag in discussions so he cuts that person and asks him to come to the point,” he revealed. He further said Zardari is very particular of his behavior when it comes to meeting delegations of other parties, he instructs us to be nice with them as it was the tradition of the Baloch to welcome the guest in the highest of honor. “Zardari Saheb says that since he is a Baloch and as per the tradition we should pay maximum regard and honor to the guest,” he added.

After spending several years in prison in which he suffered multiple medical problems, Zardari has now engaged a full time masseuse who is a Maher by caste. This man accompanies the president in tours local and international and Zardari now gets a massage before going to bed. “That is the time when he is in his most relaxed moods and you can have a candid chat with him on any issue,” said an insider.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 31st, 2010

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Reader Comments (31)

  • Elmyra
    May 31, 2010 - 1:41AM

    This article sent me into fits. Only if I was having some, milk would be coming out of my nose right now. The writer has written every thing so confidently as if he has lived his entire life with Zardari. I can call my mom, dad, siblings, relatives etc when giving an interview. Mr. Jillani would you buy that too?
    Isn’t it too obvious the attendant would say nice things about him and tell he has a simple taste? I mean I’m a lil scared while writing this, what if Zardari gets someone to trace my IP? Anyho, in one paragraph the writer claims Zardari has a simple sense of style and in another he says the President prefers his collection of branded 3 piece suits, purchased on his trips to Dubai?!
    Wouldn’t it be nicer if the 3rd richest person contributed a lil to our downtrodden economy instead of having a collection of branded suits. Someone gotta tell him, wearing those suits wouldn’t help either.

    Wow the last paragraph is a stealer

    “Zardari has now engaged a full time masseuse who is a Maher by caste. This man accompanies the president in tours local and international and Zardari now gets a massage before going to bed”

    SIMPLE INDEED!Recommend

  • May 31, 2010 - 2:53AM

    Still some material for Shahid Masood,Kamran Khan and Saleh Zafar to mourn and wail.Recommend

  • cmsarwar
    May 31, 2010 - 5:06AM

    Ziaul Haq was very particular that his piety,namaz,umras and other ritual observances should be widely publicised.In his very beautiful column then written by Abdul Qadir Hasan(now writing for daily Express) it was pointed out that a ruler’s personal habits and conduct has nothing to do with his public conduct and acts which affect the common man.Express Tribune’s picture of Zardari has no relevance to what he is doing as the President of Pakistan and so-called Co-Chairman of PPP.It would be more appropriate if true dimensions of this disaster,called Zardari,are not white-washed by the saintly picture so diligently painted by Express Tribune.You are great newspaper and your readership is sure to grow.You do not need Zardar’s help.Recommend

  • Ali K.Chishti
    May 31, 2010 - 5:31AM

    Okay, its more of a Eik Din Zardari Kay Saath! but, let’s give credit to where it’s due. Zardari is not an elitist and anyone who knows the Karachi scene know’s the family. His family had always been there in the circles and he (Zardari) starred in a local movie produced in the 1960’s as a child star. Apparently, PTV of 1990’s thanks to Nawaz Sharif demonized Zardari and successfully assassinated his character .. he had always been an easy pray since due to cultural reasons, PML-N could not have attacked Bibi directly but does that make him an, angel? absolutely not! but remember, Zardari seems to have learned the lesson the hard way and unlike Nawaz Sharif has accepted the fact and reconciled even with his political foes. Recommend

  • Abhigyan
    May 31, 2010 - 9:37AM

    Any idea where the 10 percent goes then?Recommend

  • Ahmed Khan
    May 31, 2010 - 9:50AM

    Agreed with Elmyra. The believed to be richest mans should take some responsibility and bring his wealth back to his country. I wonder what stops him from doing that despite the fact he has immunity.Recommend

  • Aristo
    May 31, 2010 - 12:44PM

    One thing is absolutely certain, he has outsmarted a lot of influential people. These people have faced a man with nerves of steel for the first time and are having a difficult time understanding his way of handling things. Personally, I am no fan of his but I do appreciate people who withstand pressure and fight till the end.Recommend

  • Saif
    May 31, 2010 - 2:03PM

    What can one say on this issue! :) However, one shouldn’t be judging people from their hobbies or personal activities..they should be judged by their actions.Recommend

  • Fizza Rizvi
    May 31, 2010 - 5:32PM

    hmm nice story but again personal morality has nothing to do with political morality. Being a liberal, I really want him to complete his tenure and he cannot be as simple as portrayed by this story. After all he is a feudal lord and feudal lord loves to eat meat. Dal and Chawal are not their type of foodRecommend

  • Jamal Abdul Nasir
    May 31, 2010 - 11:44PM

    President Asif Ali Zardari is not what he has been portrayed by media and the rival politicians and their folowers whose racism infested blind faith borders on lunacy. Consumed by their bias and rascist mindset, they simply insist that President Asif Zardari is corrupt and a bad character. Please do not forget that he was in jail for a crime that could not be proved against him during his unlawful confinement. A dictator was at large and all the presidents men, agencies ….could not prove a thing against him. And now, President Zardari has proved himself to be the most tolerant and the most democratic politician in the entire political history of Pakistan. You simply can not digest this reality….! It is only during his tenure that every one, including the opposition, does not only have a say but also enjoy being part of the ruling coalition! In Musharraf’s time, the current Chief Justice was deposed and confined! In Nawaz Sharif’s time, there was a run on the Supreme Court! It is only during his tenure that the judiciary is absolutely independent. So much so that it can open cases against President Zardari himself and his ministers. His ministers have appeared before the Judges of the Honorable Courts and defended themselves. You see, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, the ruling elite is not above the law. The Government did not decide about freedom of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Honorable Courts have the liberty to do so. The agencies did not interfere!!!! In Musharrafs dictatorship, he called the shots and handed over your mothers and sisters to Allies to be tortured and tormented. Remember Afia Siddiqui? What do you care? Mush is still a hero for you. If you are capable of setting aside your mentality somehow and think, you will realise that no TV channel has been shut down for speaking against Mr. Zardari. No media person has been kidnapped, killed or arrested because he/she spoke against Mr. Zardari. If this is not real enough for you, the Government shut down Facebook due to objections, it has the powers and proven capability to do so. Yet it has not and will never shut down this website because you biased against the best plitician to come into the Pakistani Political Arena!!! Eat your hearts out, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari is the best President, the most democratic, civilised and the most tolerant politician in the history of Pakistan. Asif Ali Zardari Zindabad! Pakistan Zindabad!!!Recommend

  • Alina
    Jun 1, 2010 - 1:46AM

    Interesting read. We all have been shown and told what kind of a politician Mr. Zardari is. It is refreshing for a change to know the person that Mr. Zardari is. The media feeds us day and night about what they want us to believe that we forget politicians are real people too and they too can have regular characteristics like the rest of us. Nice work Mr. Jillani.Recommend

  • Dee
    Jun 1, 2010 - 1:49AM

    @Jamal…Thankyou for ending my curiosity. I always wanted to find someone who ACTUALLY liked Zardari and you’re the first person I’ve come across ever ever ever in my life.Recommend

  • Riaz Pirzada
    Jun 1, 2010 - 12:57PM

    I have honor to meet Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, when he was senator and asked him couple of question.

    I found him very bold politician, as he was in jail in those days and I asked him questions, when he will be released and what he is doing in prison, what are his activities there, I found him the best person.

    Indeed Mr. Zardari, is one of the best President, democratic, civilised and the most tolerant politician in the history of Pakistan and I see him to be Bhutto of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Z ali
    Jun 1, 2010 - 2:39PM

    only i will say INNAMAL AMALO BINNIYAAT.
    Hope u remember his public speac in balochistan when he shouted on people (shown on TV) also on his offical visit to US he used to stay in Luxurious hotels and in most expensive suit with his cabnit members.
    then…………..how it justify the above mentioned by Mr Jilani.
    Media has its own agenda to be in eye’s of highups to get business and more………… today no one is saint.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2010 - 2:42PM

    Well written Jamal Nasir…
    Media, Military just unable to digest Zardari, otherwise I don’t see anything wrong in Zardari. From Media to Judiciary, everyone got freedom. Since Nawaz to Musharaf, many hundred of cases were filed against Mr Zardari, never proved anyone; even he was in Jail all time. He is the man of his words, running everything smoothly. I want Zardari to finish his tenure; after all he is elected not the military dictator. God Bless him.Recommend

  • Mohd ali
    Jun 1, 2010 - 2:46PM

    Wonder if he gets a happy ending with those massages?Recommend

  • Uzee
    Jun 1, 2010 - 2:47PM

    Ok so I’m supposed to change my opinion about him just because he eats daal and vegetables and he spends a lot of time with his father. What about all the corruption he has done?? Recommend

  • Fahad
    Jun 1, 2010 - 3:08PM

    Nicely written article with interesting insight in the personal live of the president. Keep up the good work.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2010 - 5:26PM

    I am surprised and shocked to find that even Zardari has got admirers.When we evaluate somebody,not on the basis of some criteria of correct conduct,but on the basis of comparisons that he is less bad than Musharraf or Nawaz Sharif you arrive at Jamal Nasir’s conclusions.In fact,our evaluation and support of our leaders is based only on one yardstick,and that is ,well,he is not the worst.Most of the good things attributed by Jamal to Zardari are not due to his free choice.He is being forced to submit to these things not because of his goodness but because of the compulsions around him.Surely he is unhappy and frustrated with the good things he has to ,per force digest.Look at his frustration at his inability to digest the Chief Justice.
    But the best conclusion has come from Riaz Pirzada,who had the honour to meet Zardari once upon a time,ask him some questions,and found Zardari so nice and lovely.So,the Nation,all shut up please.Recommend

  • abid
    Jun 1, 2010 - 6:40PM

    Whats with all the bitterness people

    Tribune didn’t publish this to change your political views about him, its merely one article among many on diverse topics and so what if they objectively described his personal life? Whats wrong with it?

    When you talk about corruption how much is he accused of? $60 million?

    You don’t talk about the corruption of the establishment when they were selling off Pakistanis and creating monsters that are now coming back to harm us? At least Zardari’s corruption didn’t cost 30000 livesRecommend

  • Roomi
    Jun 1, 2010 - 9:19PM

    With due respect there are over 8000 NRO Beneficiaries that MUSHARAF benefited not just Zardari to save his Backside and do a runner after he had unlimited Powers for 8 years. I am no fan of Zardari but I do believe he gets far too much flak by media and by public who just need a scape goat to vent their frustrations. People seem to belive that before Zardari came there was no corruption in Pakistan. Give us a break. Where are those other 8000 plus people who looted and plunderd or even killed and got away. As for corruption its rampant in the Political systems in the World-even the more developed Western democracies ( was Bush not corrupt- is India less corrupt)they just have basic human rights which unfortunately we dont because we have been sold to Multi Nationals and are herded by the military danda most of the time. Recommend

  • farhan
    Jun 1, 2010 - 9:57PM

    This shows that we as a nation can not accept anything against our mind sets. Pakistanis, it seems, abhore all politicians, but they on the other hand, like undemocratic poeple who have never been answerable to common pakistanis.
    For those who are shocked to see that “even Zardari got admirers” have every right to believe so, because majority of pakistanis do really think this way.
    Zardari has not only got admirers, but it seems that his diehard admirers are increasing because of the one-sided anti zardari media campaigns we observe everyday.

    We usually fail to see other side of the picture. Objectively speaking, Zardari seems more stronger with the passing days as he continues to face brutal media trial against him and his party.Recommend

  • uXuf
    Jun 2, 2010 - 8:59AM

    Was this article proofread? Or ran through the spellchecker to spot the grammar problems? The content and everything is fine but the structure of the article leaves a lot to be desired. Tribune has already become my first choice for online Pakistan news and if these smaller issues can be fixed, it would be excellent! Recommend

  • ShahzadA
    Jun 2, 2010 - 1:45PM

    I was much interested in to know about Mr AZ’s simple taste for those gorgeous horses. Oh and that the eating habits of his horses as well. Though the writer didn’t mention this ‘simple’ yet widely known taste. Recommend

  • Syd
    Jun 2, 2010 - 7:36PM

    Not sure if anyone has ever noticed his wrist watch?!? Lets see if one can guess it …. Recommend

  • Moiz
    Jun 2, 2010 - 10:48PM

    This article simply cracked me up. If Zardari really prefers living such a simple lifestyle, why doesn’t he spend all the billions of dollars he’s got in swiss bank accounts on the country!

    Wonder if this writer is actually related to Zardari in that he is trying to present a positive image of Zardari. Recommend

  • EarlyBird
    Jun 3, 2010 - 8:37AM

    Why does this article remind me of elementary school essays on “My Favorite Uncle”?!? Is it the singular aim of convincing the world your Uncle is the greatest man on earth? Or is it the third-grader expression? I’m afraid, it’s mostly the latter. I’m getting really hooked to the Express Tribune mainly because of its quality of expression. Please stay selective about your writers…unless I’m reading this in the children’s section in which case I profusely apologize to the kid who wrote it…I thought maybe you were a grown up!Recommend

  • Syed Khurram Anwar
    Jun 3, 2010 - 11:19AM

    I can just do one thing about this article , “hahahahahahaha”. salute to Mr. Shahzad Jillani.Recommend

  • `umair
    Jun 3, 2010 - 1:33PM

    @ the article: Hahahahah. Oh, wait. Was it not a humorous piece?Recommend

  • Mohsin Hijazee
    Jun 4, 2010 - 12:17AM

    Hard to digest.Recommend

  • Saqib Ali
    Jun 9, 2010 - 7:45PM

    Hard to digest haa haa haa , impossible to digest. Recommend

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