Listening to President Zardari speaking at the second death anniversary ceremony of his wife Benazir Bhutto one was reminded of Don Quixote—the idealistic blundering knight created by Cervantes. Don Quixote imagined the worst and losing touch with reality he attacked windmills thinking they were the enemy. Mr Zardari gave the impression that he was under some kind of threat or attack from many quarters. He spoke in riddles and in evasive language and came across as a man under pressure and afraid of speaking plainly.
Was his bluster a gauntlet being thrown or was it a desperate attempt to ward off something he thought was imminent? He did the unimaginable---he linked his personal survival to the survival of Pakistan. Do me in and I will do in Pakistan or something like that
Don Quixote was never alone. Sancho Panza his comical sidekick was always with him. Mr Zardari has many Sancho Panzas. They are there because he wants them around. If they advised him to say what he did then they did him no service. If they now put spin on what he said they will do him more harm. No one wants to be deceived or taken for a ride---.
It was obvious and many analysts have since confirmed that Mr Zardari was not speaking as the President of Pakistan because he did not speak of Pakistan or its people. He was also not speaking as the Supreme Commander of Pakistan's Armed Forces---in fact most analysts think that his main target were the Armed Forces followed by the Judiciary. He gave no credit to the military and in a speech dominated by the pronoun 'I' he took the credit for retaking Swat from the Taleban!! No mention of the three hundred plus who gave their lives.
So which hat was Mr Zardari wearing when he spoke? If it was the PPP Co-Chairman's hat then the Party response was rather subdued. The Peoples Party was voted into power in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's death. It was the only party that got a federal vote---all the provinces voted for it as they subsequently did for Mr Zardari. By playing the Sind card (a process started by his henchmen earlier) he tarnished the party's federal image and by trying to appease the provinces he confirmed everyone's worst fears. He even castigated the US for destroying institutions in Iraq and Afghanistan---in fact the Afghans must be smarting at his description of their country. The US must be surprised.
The President should have given hope to his people. What they got was uncertainty about the future. The 'Sancho Panzas' will take their cue from him and launch covert slander campaigns against the institutions that have been identified as threats. The only silver lining is that the military is a strong national institution and the Judiciary is in an unassailable position. The people are looking to these institutions for survival. These institutions are unlikely to respond---they will show maturity and restraint because they stand for Pakistan. The trouble is that the beginning of the end that has been started will not be quick and painless---it is likely to be long drawn out and painful. Can Pakistan afford this in the rapidly evolving environment?
By Fatima Rizvi