Beneath the veneer of his signature smile, there was and still is a Cartesian man in Mr Zardari. On Saturday, he did not seem disappointed at the prospect of walking out of the hustle and bustle, the cut and thrust of a life that kept him in headlines for the past five years. On Saturday, he made it clear he had no ambition of either reappearing as the president or the prime minister. Politics in future will not be played on the roads but parliament, he vowed. Just the other day, he committed his party to helping the PML-N government rather than frittering itself away in petty politics. A favour returned perhaps...another friendly opposition in the making?
But with President Zardari going back to a full-time job at the party, there follows the speculation about the future of the PPP, now governing Sindh, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. The confidence he is exuding at the moment may be contagious, although there is no dearth of those who have written it off as a force to confront. No more can one find the charismatic Benazir Bhutto, and the exuberant Jiyala lacks a leader to flock to the roads with and to shower with petals. Complicating the matter is the fact that Mr Zardari has been baited a bit too much; campaigns at times to label him Mr Ten Percent, the "billion dollar man" etc -- will make for baggage difficult to dispose of.
PPP still holds power in more than one province, a position that gives it enough room to demonstrate it has what it takes to earn the admiration of the common Pakistani. As good luck would have it, its biggest rival the PML-N is far from showing any appetite for revenge – one of the ugliest features of 1990s decade of democracy. Bilawal House in Lahore also can be turned into a spring board for reformation -- and Mr Zardari must lead a campaign to purge the cadres of those who have taken the PPP into unfamiliar ideological waters, taken advantage of positions of trust, and cast blight on the party's good name.
The first elected president in the country’s history, departing gracefully from the presidency after completing his full constitutional tenure, Asif Ali Zardari has another feather to his cap too; he has taken the politics of reconciliation to altogether new heights, for which he is hated as well as admired. But then doing politics and expecting no controversy is like carrying coals and expecting your hands to stay clean.