Being a man of vision, he has bravely faced all the challenges that came his way and fought his political rivals with such a sagacity, deep insight, broad vision and unwavering resolve that even his opponents are forced to admit that he is the true successor of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the best politician of Pakistan. The most effective weapon through which he has conquered his political opponents during the last four years is his politics of reconciliation. Of course, he is none other than the President of Pakistan and the Co-Chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party – Asif Ali Zardari. Today, President Zardari has successfully completed four years as the Head of State. As he is about to complete his five-year constitutional term, it is time to evaluate his performance as Pakistan’s President as well as PPP’s Co-Chairperson. In these four and a half years, there are no scandals and corruption allegations against him. Let’s take a look at some of his achievements on different fronts: constitutional, parliamentary, war on terror, political, economic, foreign and domestic.As General Musharraf had ruled the country before the PPP formed a coalition government after the 2008 elections, the Constitution existed in a subverted form. After he assumed the presidency, Zardari willingly abdicated his authority and powers to the PM and Parliament. Every leader in Pakistan has been in pursuit of more and more authority and power, so the President should be credited for relinquishing his powers and restoring the Constitution in its original form. After Zardari reduced his vast presidential powers to that of a ceremonial figurehead, Parliament played a very active role in strengthening democracy and establishing constitutional and democratic norms in the country. Very effective and meaningful amendments were introduced in the Constitution after thorough discussions in both houses of Parliament. Various ministries and departments were devolved to the provinces on the recommendations of parliamentary committees. The centre and the federating units had serious differences over the distribution of resources out of the federal divisible pool. The issue, however, was resolved in Parliament through unanimous adoption of the 7th NFC Award, giving the provinces increased share in the federal budget. One of the critical challenges the PPP government inherited was Pakistan’s role in the war on terror. Thousands of Pakistanis had been displaced due to military operation against extremists in Swat, Malakand and other tribal areas. However, due to an appropriate action by the armed forces, under the President’s supervision, all the IDP’s were rehabilitated and sent back to their natives areas. Also, President Zardari took a bold stance on Nato supplies, drone attacks and action against extremists. Then last month, Washington was forced to release $1.1 billion to Pakistan from the Coalition Support Fund. One front on which President Zardari fought very sensibly is domestic politics. His weapons were his political insight and sincere efforts for reconciliation with all the political forces in the country. He not only successfully completed four years in the presidency, but also steered the lurching boat of democracy out of troubled waters. The President’s pro-democracy role has proved that he is a true friend of democracy. It is really heartening to see an elected government completing its constitutional term only because of Zardari’s political wisdom. The province of Balochistan has always been a centre of machinations of Pakistan’s enemies due to its strategic location. Successive governments also neglected it, creating a sense of deprivation among the Balochis. But Zardari, soon after assuming office, paid special attention to this province. He personally visited the Baloch leaders in their hometown, publicly offered an apology in February 2008 for the excesses committed against the Baloch during the past regimes, and took a number of landmark initiatives towards bringing them into the mainstream. An inherited problem that has kept haunting the government throughout the past four years is electricity and gas shortage. Under the special instructions of President Zardari, the government is making all-out efforts to resolve this issue at the earliest. The government has been able to add 3,500 MW of electricity to the national grid during the past four years. Thirty-nine projects, having a cumulative capacity of 10,211 MW, will be completed till 2017. The President is taking personal interest in an early resolution of the issue, and it is expected that during the next five-year term of the PPP government, the energy shortage would be overcome once and for all! On the social welfare front, the government’s performance has been commendable. To alleviate poverty, schemes like Benazir Income Support Programme, under which more than Rs 85 billion has been disbursed among four million poor families, Waseela-e-Haq initiative, the Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme giving 12 percent share of the state-owned industrial to workers enterprises and Benazir Green Tractor Scheme to small farmers, are underway. Also, the government has taken tough decisions to rectify the faults afflicting the economy. The imposition of the Reformed General Sales Tax and expanding the tax net by shifting focus on direct taxes with a view to protecting the poorer sections of society from the adverse effects of spiralling prices, represent a healthy paradigm shift in the management of the economy that could rightly be described as a pioneering initiative towards self-reliance and sustainable growth. By and large, the past four years of Asif Zardari as President were full of trials and tribulations. But he has well spent his tenure so far in taming anti-democratic forces and strengthening the civilian rule. He became the first President of Pakistan, who addressed Parliament in its full term, withdrew his powers and transferred to Parliament. Keeping in view his accomplishments, Mr Zardari can be described as the best Head of State the country has ever had since independence. 

The writer is a PPP leader and former central secretary information of the ARD. Email:munir_ahmad_khan@hotmail.com