In these fraught times, with a civil war being waged between the army and the armed militias of the Taliban forces up in Pakistan's 'wild west', the province of the NWFP and its adjoining tribal areas, some of the literate few of the 170 million odd citizens who have access to the internet and the press are still able to focus upon what could, under the prevailing circumstances, be deemed relatively trivial matters. One widely circulated trivia is the outrage expressed at the fact that in recent times, in shots taken in the splendiferous Aiwan-e-Sadar that appear in the press or on television, the obligatory portrait of the country's Founder and Maker are not to be seen. It was highly insensitive of President Asif Ali Zardari to be photographed with the cricket team against a background of photographs of himself, his father-in-law (founder of the party) his assassinated wife, and his son. He should have foreseen that it might not go down well with the public which largely is not his great admirer. On occasions when he is photographed in his arm-chair meeting visiting firemen or receiving his prime minister, his army chief, and so forth, all that can be seen is a photograph of Benazir Bhutto placed on the table next to him. So those who complain are not really out of line. They have a point. So vociferous has been the outcry that the usually mild Farhatullah Babar, spokesman and defender of the president, has sent in an irate letter to the press. According to him, on the walls of the grandiose Aiwan there still remain countless images of Mr Jinnah. The problem is that we do not get to see them. So the next time Zardari is photographed in his fortress he might position himself strategically under a portrait of his country's Founder and confound us all. So incensed was the spokesman that he has accused those commenting on the perceived slight and denial of being "Bhutto haters...frustrated over their [the four depicted] striding the national political scene like colossuses." Now, with all due respect, there is no way that Zardari and his son can be listed with Zulfikar and his daughter in the colossus column. We see what we see and to comment upon what is before our eyes cannot be "lies and falsehood." We must be proven to be wrong. The presidency, seat of the head of state, has a somewhat murky history. Completed in the Ziaul Haq era, none of its occupants, or those entitled to occupy it, have left it in a blaze of glory. They have all departed under different clouds. Zia never lived in the building, choosing to stay in the Army House with GHQ near at hand, all raw power in this country emanating from that humble edifice and the army chief. He used the Aiwan infrequently for official purposes, the last occasion being August 14, 1988 when he held the Independence Day function there. He is remembered emerging after the celebrations, under an umbrella as it was raining, sporting a black atchkan and Jinnah cap. Four days later he was dead. A story is told of a visiting Arab potentate who Zia accorded the special privilege of being lodged in the desolate Aiwan in which no man other than the night watchmen had yet slept. When he entered the bathroom to shower he was splattered by rusty water full of detritus that had gathered in the virgin pipes. He moved out immediately. The first man to set up house in the Aiwan, after the plumbing had been sorted out, was Ghulam Ishaq Khan in August 1988. He was there until unceremoniously removed by a fed-up army chief in July 1993 (just under five years). Then came Farooq Leghari in November 1993 whose resignation was more or less forced upon him in December 1997 (four years). Rafiq Tarar was in residence from January 1998 until told in June 2001 by another army chief to return to his own home (less than four years). The period of habitation has steadily decreased. General Pervez Musharraf, as with Ziaul Haq, as first of all army chief and secondly president stayed safely at the Army House throughout his tenure as COAS and then simply as president. He had an office at the Aiwan which he used when necessary and of course hosted state functions in his capacity as head of state. Zardari succeeded in removing him last August, reneging on 'deal' done in a backroom, but the army saw to it that Musharraf left the presidency with due ceremony and dignity - the only man to have done so. Zardari, as a precaution, moved into the Aiwan, prior to being sworn in. He has yet to complete one year in residence. The writer is a freelance columnist