Benazir Bhutto may have been the daughter of the east, but President Asif Ali Zardari is definitely the punching bag of the east, west and every other location in this world. Whether it be his chateau in France, his Swiss accounts, his supposedly ‘undemocratic’ statements, President Zardari is getting a good dose of ‘reality’ wherever he goes.
At the core of these recent assaults on the ‘honourable’ presidency is the fact that the people in Pakistan, including the various institutional players in the nation, tend to portray the president as a predatory character appearing out of thin air to loot and plunder the land and make the lives of the innocent and helpless Pakistani miserable. He is depicted as an individual born and bred in a bubble devoid of any connection to the moral ethics of the average Pakistani, and is censured, ridiculed and embarrassed for his alleged corruption and greed.
However, the fact is that President Zardari hasn’t fallen out of the sky or been ‘imported’ from a foreign country. He has lived amongst us and been brought up by the very people who now ironically exhibit disgust at his actions. If he is in fact as corrupt as people suggest, as much as one would like to deny it, he would probably be an adequate representation of a country which is sinking under the pressures of corruption, nepotism and lawlessness.
After all, it is in this country that you find a public which plays a decisive role in promoting and encouraging the taking and giving of bribes to policemen, judicial officials, and other government officials in order to ‘speed along’ their transactions or actions of interest. They openly and shamelessly evade taxes whilst demanding that the president declare his assets. Furthermore, it was the average Pakistani who gathered relief goods, for the affected families of the 2005 earthquake and then sold them in the open market for a quick buck rather than actually distributing them amongst the needy. In recent times, the public was also seen running towards the wreckage of Flight ED202, not to search for survivors, but rather to steal whatever ‘booty’ they could lay their hands on in a moment of opportunity. This public is also composed of those businessmen who hoard goods, inflate prices, and ensure that essential items remain out of the reach of the less fortunate. And finally our public is further represented by those traffic police officers and other officials who vow to hold the powers that be accountable for their actions and yet are caught innumerable times violating the rules themselves.
All of these persons are members of the public and represent the level of corruption and decadence which is seemingly seeping into the core of our social fabric. Now this is not to say that each and every member of the public is rotten to the core, because clearly that isn’t the case. However, when one sees the types of activities and ethical ‘misconduct’ mentioned above, taking place in all spheres of public and private life in Pakistan, one finds it hard to digest criticism of a president who in fact seems to be a splitting image of the kind of society we now live in. If the above mentioned snapshots of public behaviour are evidence of anything, it is that undeniably, and unfortunately, there is a little bit of Zardari in all of us.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2010.