We must ask if the speech delivered by President Asif Ali Zardari in Khairpur district in the heart of Sindh is suitable for a head of state. President Zardari made no real effort to present himself as a neutral figure and made it clear that he was with the PPP — virtually at the same level as one of its workers. The question of holding dual posts as party chairman and as president has raised questions in the past. More will come up following this speech.
In his speech, President Zardari indirectly attacked the judiciary — with which the executive has been long locked in a tussle — over the manner in which a former prime minister was disqualified and boasted that he had been replaced by a new one just as loyal to the party. The president also claimed that the PPP would win the next election and denied that there would be any attempt to delay it. It is certainly hoped that the balloting process will proceed as per schedule and with the transparency that is required for such a key event. The president should, in fact, assure the people of this by adopting a position that rises above party lines.
As he has done before, President Zardari also spoke of ‘conspiracies’ against his party and said that the PPP would not engage in underhand deals. Again, it is hoped that this will be proven true. To his credit, the president admitted that there was a grave energy crisis in the country, which had driven people to the streets. There are also other problems that he needs to address. As rumour goes, the real reason for his visit to Khairpur was to win back former Sindh home minister Manzoor Wassan who it is believed may be joining the PML-F. Clearly, the PPP does not wish to lose vital hands in Sindh. But it is questionable if the president himself should be playing such a direct role in party politics rather than leaving this to others who may be able to tackle such issues without raising quite so many eyebrows.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.