Friday, 12 September 2008

Why Zardari has been so much vilified?

Reza Hossein Borr

Corruption in Pakistan is widespread. There is no sense of shame and guilt about it. Political leaders, civil servants, army generals, security forces, businessmen, and even ordinary people have been so much corrupted that there is hardly any high ranking person in Pakistan who has not been involved in some kind of corruption. Corruption has become popular, acceptable and recognised by all people and all Pakistani institutions. All of them accuse each other of corruption and all of them claim to be clean and descent people with a great sense of integrity. All of them dismiss allegations of corruption. So far it has been very difficult to prove any claim of corruption against any senior politician, senior businessman, or an army general. While everybody talks of corruption the judiciary has not proved anything.

The fact of the matter is that there is corruption at large scale but it is done so immaculately that it is hard to detect it and even harder to prove it.

While corruption is so widespread and all politicians and senior civil servants and businessmen have been accused of it, why Zardari has been more accused of the same thing that the accusers have done themselves in possibly bigger ways? The accusations against Nawaz Sharif are more fundamental. Accusations against General Musharaf and other military rulers of Pakistan are even more evident but why Zardari has been vilified so much?

The ruling elite come from the top families in Pakistan. Those who become president, prime minister, chief minister, governor and minister are usually selected from top feudal landlords, top religious families and top businessmen. When another person from a lower rank of feudalism joins the government or gets involved in corruption, he will be very quickly vilified and exposed. Corruption is monopolized by the top elite. They have nearly impunity. They know how to neutralise corruption allegations. If other people go into monopolies of power and corruption they will be vilified ruthlessly. Pakistani establishment is extremely protective, closed and corrupt. They protect each other and they do not admit newcomers quite easily. Asif Ali Zardari was such a person, a newcomer and he had to take the blame for whatever his wife, Benazir Bhutto, did or was alleged to have done. The establishment could not discredit one senior member of their own and therefore, they had to look for a scapegoat who was more vulnerable and less defendable. Asif Ali Zardari is a frank and straightforward man. He is from a lesser families. His competitors could not see him as the husband of the First Lady of Pakistan. The allegations that everybody wanted to throw at Benazir Bhutto, were thrown at Zardari.

Zardari family is a feudal family but a third-class in the hierarchy of ranks of feudal classes in Sindh, Pakistan. The Bhutto family was a second-class feudal family in Sindh before the ascendancy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the hierarchy of social classes. At the top were Jatoai and Talpour, two Baloch families that ruled Sindh. Pakistan like India is a classed based society. The feudals have enormous influence, wealth, land, authority and prestige in Pakistan. The political positions change from one feudal family to another feudal family. Most of these feudal families inherited the British system of culture. They send their children to best universities and establish connections with established families in UK and throughout the world. These connections help them internationally.

Education in the best universities accompanied by their family backgrounds give them privileged positions in politics, civil service and army. There is a huge competition among the feudal families of different ranks. They try to discredit each other but they never go to war to destroy each other. They are aware of their class privileges and they know that they can compete for different ranks and positions but they must not destroy each other. They may put each other in prison or they may be put in prison by army and security forces but they always are respected even in prison. They have specially prison privileges. They would not be treated like other criminals. They see each other regularly; they attend each other's weddings and ceremonies.

When the British captured Sindh, the ruling families of Sindh and a large part of Punjab were Jatouai and Talpour families, two Baluch families. These two families retained their positions and privileges during the British rule. When the British left, they were regularly elected in Pakistan national assembly and senate. There has been hardly any government in Pakistan that did not have a minister from these two families. All Sindhi governments were also dominated by these two families.

When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto began his political activities he managed to attract the attention of the army, civil service and Pakistani security forces. He was a talented man and therefore, he managed to form Pakistan People's Party with a Socialist agenda. After the disintegration of Pakistan and the emergence of Bangladesh, Bhutto won the general elections and became the Prime Minister of the country. He managed to pass the first democratic constitution of Pakistan in which it was recognised as a Federation. With his gradual of upward moving, the Bhutto family superseded the importance in the hierarchy of feudal rank and became number one. Jatouai and Talpour families accepted his leadership and joined his government. Thus Bhutto family became the first family of Pakistan. Z. Bhutto was educated in Oxford University. His daughter Benazir Bhutto was also educated in the same university. They had numerous friends in high places all over the world.

Zardari family was one rank lower than the Bhutto family before the ascendancy of Z. Bhutto. When Bhutto family ascended to the first family of Pakistan, the Zardari family remained in its own original rank. The distance between the two families widened enormously. The two Baluch families who ruled Sindh became the second after the Bhutto family. Zardari and Bhutto families are both Shia families. The other important families in Sindh and Pakistan were Sunnis. Although Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, the absolute majority of its people are secular and therefore they elect their representatives according to their qualifications and political manifestoes, not according to their religion. But yet, they prefer to arrange their marriages within their own religious sect.

Asif Ali Zardari's father, Hakem Ali Zardari Baloch was a member of Sindh Assembly when Z. Bhutto was the Prime Minister. He was a landlord and he was respected in Sindh. He told me that when the Shah of Iran went to Pakistan, he was part of Bhutto delegation who welcomed the Shah at the airport. The Shah talked to him in Farsi and asking him, "Chetoureed aghaye Zardari?" Hakem Ali responded, "Zardari hastam, amma Zadar nistam." The translation goes something like that. "How are you Mr Zardari?" Asked the shah of Iran. "My name is money keeper but I don't have money." He responded. He had enough wealth but he was not among the top landlords. He was not a highly educated person and therefore, he never assumed a high ranking position in Pakistan.

When Z. Bhutto was overthrown and arrested, the old friends who surrounded him for money, job and power abandoned the family. When the army consolidated its hold on the country, Zia hanged him. A large number of his friends were put in prison. Some others escaped the country. Benazir Bhutto stayed with her father until the end. The conditions were tough for Bhutto family. It was in such tough conditions, that the Zardari clan stayed firmly behind the Bhutto family. Asif and Benazir got married. As soon as the news of marriage was published, the rumours against Asif Ali Zardari began to circulate in Pakistan. There were a lot of manufactured rumours by establishment to destroy him. When Benazir became the Prime Minister, the allegations of fraud, corruption, criminal activities against Asif Ali Zardari began in earnest. He was put in prison but no evidence was produced. He and his supporters claimed that the rumours of corruption and crime were politically motivated as nothing was proved in the court. His opponents claimed that the corruption charges were true but somehow he got away with it.

Today Asif Ali Zardari is the president of Pakistan. He has a unique opportunity to prove that the rumours of corruption were baseless. He has the opportunity to demonstrate a high level of integrity and decency in the government. Nobody can clean the Pakistan establishment. It is beyond any major reform. But Zardari can display his skills in management and leadership. He can give real autonomy to the members of Federation. He must be aware that he has not a good reputation. He must also know that Nawaz Sharif has accused him of breach of promise at least in three occasions. Breach of promise is despised in Baluch culture. His political skills accompanied by breach of promise landed him the job of president but these skills cannot help him retain the job.

In my seminars, I teach a new model which is about how to manage your success successfully. The strategies for managing and retaining success are fundamentally different from the strategies that made somebody successful. The strategy for becoming successful is what Zardari has displayed in the last few months. But the strategy for retaining his success is completely dependent fully on how much he can deliver on the promises that he has given or his wife had given before him. This is the time for Peak Performance. Those political leaders that are elected can only retain their success through delivering the results and these results must be fully felt and sensed by individuals and masses. This is a historical moment for him. In an open letter that I wrote him few weeks ago I advised him to avoid becoming the president of Pakistan as I argued that he would face the same painful fate that the previous presidents and prime ministers of Pakistan have encountered. The establishment of Pakistan is so corrupt and inefficient that it can dissolve the most competent leaders and managers. The establishment would not give him a chance to succeed. They would do everything to prepare the ground for his failure. His failure will be more celebrated. The masses may celebrate his success as they would be the beneficiary of his success. But so far no Prime Minister or president in Pakistan has succeeded. All of them have disgracefully failed. I will be surprised if he can make himself an exception. But in history, like in life, everything is possible by leaders of exceptional visions and skills.

He's not the first Baluch to become the president but he is the first Baluch that have been welcomed by the Baluch people. The Baluch fighters have announced a ceasefire to give him a chance. What the Baluch people want is the respect for the original agreement that was signed by the head of state of Baluchistan and the head of state of Pakistan. They signed an agreement for the union of two sovereign states in a confederation format by which the two states preserve their sovereignty but manage jointly the foreign affairs, currency and army. According to this agreement these issues must be jointly administered. They were not supposed to be solely in the hands of the state of Pakistan. Some of the Baloch fighters want full independence; some others want Baluchistan to be recognised as a sovereign state in a union with Pakistan like European Union. If president Zardari succeeds in restoring this agreement and if he can provide complete autonomy for the four units of the Federation, he will go in history as a man of high integrity and great political courage.

The Pakistani establishment must encourage him to restore the supremacy of Parliament, the independence of judiciary and the full autonomy of the four states as these measures can guarantee the existence of Pakistan. Pakistan has reached a crossroad. If anybody is interested in sustaining Pakistan, he must be interested in the will and welfare of the people who constitute Pakistan. The people of Pakistan want full autonomy. If they get full autonomy they will retain Pakistan. If they do not get full autonomy they will break it. It is the establishment which is responsible for making or breaking of Pakistan. It must be remembered that if there is no Pakistan, there is no Pakistani establishment. The Pakistanis establishment would enjoy its privileges if the people of Pakistan fulfill their aspirations. The establishment is living on the people of Pakistan and if the people are not living well there would not be a Pakistan establishment.

Nobody has been so much suspected as Zardari. Nobody has been so discredited and vilified as him. If he has any talent it is time to use this opportunity to manifest integrity beyond doubts and clean himself before that time that he becomes another victim of Pakistan politics.

Reza Hossein Borr is an NLP Master Trainer and a leadership consultant and the creator of 150 CDs and 14 Change management models. He is also the author of Manual Success, Manual of Coaching and Mentoring, Motivational Stories that Can Change Your Life, and a New Vision for the Islamic World. He can be contacted by email:

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