The Last Temptation of Asif Ali Zardari

Self-interest runs supreme. It is natural and logical. However, it is market that discovers and maintains a beautiful balance between clashing self-interests. Voluntary exchanges in the market where all the parties involved seek their own interest ultimately benefit all the parties. Otherwise, if any one fears to incur harm or loss, the exchange does not take place. This is how self-interest of one individual takes care of other individuals’ interest. It is in this perspective that the science of economics has been defined as the study of how and how not we fulfill our mutual needs.


by Dr. Khalil Ahmad

In rivers and bad governments the lightest things swim at the top.
-Benjamin Franklin

A good government produces citizens distinguished for courage, love of justice, and every other good quality; a bad government makes them cowardly, rapacious, and the slave of every foul desire.
-Dionysius of Halicarnassus, c. 20 BC

Self-interest runs supreme. It is natural and logical. However, it is market that discovers and maintains a beautiful balance between clashing self-interests. Voluntary exchanges in the market where all the parties involved seek their own interest ultimately benefit all the parties. Otherwise, if any one fears to incur harm or loss, the exchange does not take place. This is how self-interest of one individual takes care of other individuals’ interest. It is in this perspective that the science of economics has been defined as the study of how and how not we fulfill our mutual needs.

But what about the science of politics! Is there no market here that creates a balance between clashing self-interests? If not, why? No doubt, politics has a flourishing market, especially in developing countries where political self-interest both immediately and in the long run results in the fulfillment of economic self-interests of the elite classes. In clear contrast to the economic market, in these countries political market is more distorted. It has scant voluntary exchanges. It has lies, frauds, deceptions, coercion, manipulation, exploitation, and huge corruption rampant in its bazaars. In fact, there no rule reigns supreme but the personal rules.

As matter of fact, after the fall of Soviet Union, opening up of economic markets, particularly in developing countries, took a swift turn. But no doubt the opening up of political markets could not run at the same pace. Rather, there prevailed a stubborn rigidity. The elite classes which had monopolized the political markets would never allow them to be free to others. This helped them keep their hold intact on monopolized closed national economic markets whether through de-regulating or regulating these markets. Pakistan is the best example of such a country.

Ironically, it is through this mechanism of de-regulation and regulation that the elite classes permitted a sort of ‘trickling down’ that kept the poverty steam of the people controlled. This brought temporary phases of artificial prosperity to various sections of society. And, this helped the elite classes to keep their monopolization of political markets undisturbed and running smoothly. Again, Pakistan excelled in that.

However, as there is always a Moses to a Pharaoh, most of the sections that prospered on de-regulation of the economic markets were able to see the real face of the Pharaohs. This real face is their elitist politics, controlled and distorted democracy, and fake constitutionalism. It was revealed to them that in the political market, there are no rules. They found out that though there is much fanfare on the issue of constitution, it is merely a plaything for the elite classes. It has nothing to do with the rules of the political game being played in Pakistan since its beginning.

This real knowledge was manifested somehow in the person of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan. Such real knowledge is always threatening to the interests of elite classes and their rule. The first person who somehow smelled this danger first or reacted to it first was General (retired) Pervez Musharraf. This made us witness to the fateful episode of the year 2007, the March 9, where the real knowledge and the vested interests collided. Rest is known to us all.

Later on, after the murder of Benazir Bhutto and February 18 elections, the relay race of protecting the interests of the elite classes changed hands. General (retired) Musharraf handed over the torch to Asif Ali Zardari, who had just won a political lottery to the Co-Chairmanship of Pakistan Peoples Party which otherwise would have gone to the share of his wife. This torch was a symbol that represented the knowledge of threat to the elite classes. What is happening to this day is proof enough that Asif Ali Zardari is running well like an experienced racer.

It is this sort of political market where there are no rules of game observed and enforced that temptations abound. Also, it is such a market where no rules of game are permitted to be enforced and observed that temptations come true. Really, in a country where there is no constitution and no regard for it in the elite classes; where there is no rule of law and no regard for it in the elite classes; where there is no independent judiciary and no regard for it in the elite classes; such a country is a perfect example of monopolized political market that serves the economic interests of the elite classes best.

In such a perfectly distorted political market, the temptations are not only abundant but irresistible. Here we have money-whitening schemes, concessions, rebates, tax holidays, SROs, loan write-offs in the economic realm and all that to benefit the elite classes. In the political realm, we have suspension of rules, under-hand deals, pardons, and NROs and all that to benefit the elite classes. This makes Pakistan a thoroughly monopolized political market.

Sure, if there is a constitution which is respected by all persons and enforced equally to all persons and situations without any suspension, abeyance, crooked amendments and abrogations; if there is rule of law which treats all equally without making any discrimination between them on any count; if there is an independent judiciary which takes its inspiration from the constitution, keeps its letter and spirit sacred to its heart, plays as its real custodian in every situation, and never bows to the whims of both dictators and elected rulers and their mala fide amendments; in such a political market though the existence of temptations and those who are susceptible to these temptations may not be ruled out, however, it may be ensured there that temptations are scarce and those who go after them be not rewarded, but duly punished.

This perspective helps us understand what’s going on in the present day Pakistan. It’s a fight and that too a neck-deep fight between the representatives of the elite classes and the people. The most deceptive factor and character in this battlefield is that of the political parties, especially Pakistan Peoples Party. They do politics in the name of people but indeed they just use them to further their economic and political interests. Previously, PPP’s Chairperson Benazir Bhutto used her party’s clout to create “new temptations” for her own benefit which manifested in her deal with General (retired) Musharraf, and that was in addition to the existing elitist temptations. After her, it is Asif Ali Zardari who is safeguarding not only his own and his family’s interests but also the interests of the elite classes of Pakistan. It needs no mention of his party’s interests. In his person, it may be his very personal and private temptation what he gained in consequence of the NRO, but on the social plane, he represents the elite classes of Pakistan and is protecting their interests.

Thus, it must be clear to us that for Asif Ali Zardari consolidating NRO, maintaining the status quo by not restoring the thrown away judges, or restoring them by keeping the PCOed judges along with them in the same courts, by making the judiciary pliant, pro-elite and anti-people by way of the ‘Constitutional Package,’ may be his last temptation, but for the elites of Pakistan it is not their last temptation.

That is why it makes the rule of law movement so important and so decisive to the fate of us, the people of Pakistan. It requires that we should clearly recognize who are our friends and who are our enemies. We should realize that it is rule of games for which we must stand up beyond our affiliation be it to caste, clan, ethnicity, community, sect, religion, party or any other thing. It is supremacy of the rule of games, or the constitution, that will ensure our fundamental rights to us; it is an independent judiciary that will ensure dignity and justice to us. A political party which does not favor restoration of the judges, supremacy of the constitution and rule of law can never ensure us our fundamental rights, dignity and justice. Only guarantee for the security of our fundamental rights, dignity and justice is supremacy of the constitution and not the parliament, an independent judiciary, and rule of law. We must stand up for the judges, who were thrown away on November 3 last, to get back in their courts to move fast in that direction. That is simple and straight!

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