Sharjeel Inam Memon

Asif Ali Zardari has completed his five-year constitutional term as President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and left the President’s House in a dignified manner. Today, the world recognizes that today’s Pakistan is quite different from the one five years ago. For the first time in the country’s history, power was transferred peacefully and democratically. The federation is stronger than what it was before.

The Pakistani nation is united and confident after scoring landmark victories in war on terror. The country is on the track to political and economic sovereignty. The state for the first time has embarked on anchoring the lives of the downtrodden with a massive welfare-oriented budget.

The international community is acknowledging these changes as well. Even President Zardari’s opponents within the country cannot deny the fact that the country has made tremendous advancement in the areas of stability and self-determination in the last five years.

We appreciate the fact that Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif hosted a farewell lunch in honour of President Asif Ali Zardari and set a tradition of giving a warm and dignified sendoff to an elected President.

On December 27, 2007 the symbol of the federation, Benazir Bhutto, was martyred. This tragedy shook the foundations of the country. There was dejection and mayhem all over the country. In this state of affairs Asif Ali Zardari stepped in and played his political role.

The manner in which President Zardari, in his capacity as the co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party and as head of the state, steered the country to safety in periods of turbulence from December 27, 2007 to September 8, 2013 baffled the mind.

People were mourning the death of Benazir Bhutto and when her body reached Naudero from Rawalpindi people plunged in a state of melancholy and misery in which it is almost impossible for any state to control the grieving multitude.

The slogans of ‘Pakistan Na Khapey’ were echoing from every corner, but Asif Ali Zardari emerged from the depth of tragedy and in a voice that trembled with grief managed to raise the slogan ‘Pakistan Khapey’.

His first act of wisdom was to dispel the suggestion from some quarters to put off general elections for an indefinite period after the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto and forced the then rulers into holding general elections on February 18, 2008.

The biggest challenge for Zardari after the general elections was how to protect the democratic system. Zardari could have become the prime minister, but he decided to sit at the presidency.

Since a sword had been hanging over the federal parliamentary and democratic system in the form of the Eighth Constitutional amendment, Zardari decided to guard the democratic system from the presidency.

Had there been anyone else at the presidency, the democratic system would have been dismissed within a few months. For the defence of democracy, he played a crucial role in uniting various political forces. Along with protecting democracy, Asif Ali Zardari framed a policy that led to creation of unanimity between the political forces and the armed forces on dealing with the dangers to the security of the country.

An operation against the terrorists was launched in Swat, Malakand, Dir and some other tribal areas after an evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people and the country’s flag was once again hoisted in those areas after getting them cleared of the terrorists.

The most crucial factor in this victory was the understanding between the political groups and the armed forces, credit for which goes to Asif Ali Zardari.

The PPP government strove for resolving Balochistan’s problems and announced the ‘Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package’.

The 18th Constitutional amendment is one of President Asif Ali Zardari’s greatest achievements. The amendment not only restored the 1973 Constitution, but it also strengthened the Parliament, the federal democratic system and the federating units. The President did away with the presidential prerogative of dissolving government and assemblies.

After the 18th amendment, the 19th and the 20th amendments were also approved which automatically removed several of the threats to the federation of Pakistan. With these amendments, women, minorities and the workers got those of their rights which had been guaranteed in the Constitution. 

President Zardari also initiated the Benazir Income Support Programme by virtue of which a welfare net was given to hundreds of thousands of deserving families.

President Zardari also brought about certain changes in the country’s foreign policy which enabled the country to take certain steps as a fully-fledged sovereign state, namely, giving the Gwadar port to China and the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project. President Zardari made 10 official tours to China during his presidential term which gives a very clear indication of a shift in Pakistan’s policy.

In spite of being the head of the state, Zardari chose to remove the phrase of political victimization from his dictionary. He did all this for his country and its people. He did not for single minute think that he had been kept in jail for 11 years and not a single case was proved against him. Those who had politically victimized him, Zardari graciously forgave them. Such a course of life is chosen by only those people who prefer to live in history rather than those who feel contended by being kept alive through the media only.