Responsible Man   (19 Sep 2008)

Fortune favours the brave, but it sometimes rewards the hangers on. Who would have imagined last year that Asif Ali Zardari would become the President of Pakistan, when the beleaguered politician was facing a lifetime behind bars? Can Zardari himself believe his luck that he is the most powerful president in the history of Pakistan, after former president Pervez Musharraf almost rewrote the country's constitution and gave unprecedented powers to the post of the President? Zardari is today able to dissolve the Parliament and sack the Prime Minister at will. With great power, though, has come great responsibility on Zardari's shoulders.


Pakistan is fast going down the barrel and Zardari needs to take swift and decisive steps to save his country from imploding. Terrorism is the biggest enemy of Pakistan today; every day hundreds of Pakistanis are killed by terrorists. After Musharraf's departure, the fundamentalists have come out to reclaim their territory with renewed vigour. Al Queda or Taliban rule vast swathes of Pakistan alternatively; from Swat valley and Peshawar to Waziristan. Worse, there are signs that terrorists are looking to further entrench their reach by annexing other cities of Pakistan under their control.


In the meantime, the USA wasted no time in stopping the terrorists advance by launching ground attacks in Pakistan. Zardari now faces the unenviable challenges of stopping the US from carrying any further attacks, stopping the terrorists himself, and also pacifying the Pakistani people after what they see as the US' invasion of Pakistan. Pakistan's economy is already in a deep mess; the Pakistani rupee today trades 75 for a single US dollar. There is no real FDI flowing into the country. The fundamentalist Maulanas in the meantime are growing their hold on the nation's economy. Zardari has no end to the battles he needs to fight, including one to save his own life from the terrorists and extremists.


It is still early days yet in Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad, but it appears that Zardari has got his priorities right. In one of his first speeches after taking over as President, he has spoken about giving 'good news' soon over Kashmir. It will be interesting to see if the most powerful civilian in the history of Pakistan can leave a legacy of resolving the oldest dispute between Pakistan and India.

Rajeev Shukla