The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing, wrote the ancient poet Archilocus. Isaiah Berlin extended this metaphor to classify human beings as either hedgehog or fox: "There exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way, related by no moral principle." Asif Zardari has been pursuing many ends since the general election seven months ago: accommodating the United States; appeasing General Musharraf; stringing along Nawaz Sharif with umpteen agreements; whispering sweet nothings indiscriminately across the political spectrum; and paying lip-service to PPP's moth-eaten populism while using all his wiles to protect the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). At the culminating peak of his roller coaster political career, Zardari this summer has won over the Americans, pushed out Musharraf, outfoxed Nawaz Sharif, and re-appointed judges in the same unconstitutional manner in which they were deposed by General Musharraf in November 2007 - on his way to getting elected the President of Pakistan. The contrast with Nawaz Sharif is stark, who has sacrificed prime share in federal government spoils and has imperilled his party's government in the Punjab for the sake of one big thing: restoration of judges. For Sharif, restoration of democracy and constitutional rule has inextricably become restoration of judges. In this hedgehog-like pursuit of the judges' restoration, Sharif has antagonised the United States and its surrogate the Pakistani establishment, but has won kudos of Pakistan's new-born civil society and independent media. Yet the fox has edged out the hedgehog and now occupies the presidential throne. Can Zardari move from wheeling-dealing to leading? "In a president, character is everything," Peggy Noonan has written. "A president does not have to be brilliant. He does not have to be clever, you can hire clever. You can hire pragmatic managers and you can bring in policy experts. But you cannot buy courage and decency... A president must bring these things with him." What is Asif Ali Zardari bringing to the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? Without stirring the swamp of Benazir Bhutto's two stints in government, one can say this: the president suffered eleven years in jail with courage, but does not have the courage to prosecute Pervez Musharraf for high treason. Zardari's decency to MQM and JUI-F has not extended to the Lawyers' Movement. Nothing can be expected from an individual who has reneged publicly and repeatedly on written agreements, one of which he signed in presence of the Holy Quran. The president has a shaky grasp of economics. Since formation of its government in the centre half a year ago, the Zardari-led PPP has failed to bring a single good-governance initiative to Parliament; decided arbitrarily to purge the Kalabagh Dam plan in midst of an all-time-worst power crisis; and foisted a timid status quo budget on Pakistanis already crucified by inflation. The famed Zardari smile has proved singularly incapable of protecting Pakistani sovereignty from rampaging NATO forces. "It is not so much the sight of immorality of the great that is to be feared as that of immorality leading to greatness," Alexis Tocqueville has written. "How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed?" Despite grave questions about his credibility, Asif Zardari has one saving grace. He has taken office through a constitutional procedure conducted peacefully (although the NWFP ballot-peeping left a bitter taste). Let us register the benchmarks on which Zardari will be judged. On the day he was elected, Pakistan's dollar reserves were $8890 million and falling by $800 million a month, Pak rupee had lost one-fifth of its value against the US Dollar, IMF was waiting for Pakistan to proffer the begging bowl, and inflation stood at 31.5 percent. Searing energy and flour shortages scorched the economy. For the first Ramadan in the nation's 61-year history, hundreds of millions of poverty-battered Pakistanis faced the prospect of mass hunger. International assessments of Pakistani economy are terrifying. Global bond markets have priced Pakistani debt at risk of default in early 2009. Transparency International has ranked Pakistan as a sty of corruption and UNDP has published our human development indicators at par with sub-Saharan Africa. On the eve of Zardari's election, NATO forces had attacked Pakistani soil three times in three days, India had joined the nuclear club, Government of Pakistan was criminally silent on Indian repression of the peaceful movement in Indian-held Kashmir and more Pakistanis were dying annually from terrorist attacks and suicide bombings than citizens of any other nation on the planet. No dearth of challenges, then, for the newly elected president. Zardari is blessed with a sharp mind. Yet business acumen will not be enough to rescue the economy; inspired thinking will be needed. The president will need moral sense to bring the missing persons home, investigate the Jamia Hafsa massacre, and to wash the stains of the 17th Amendment and November 3 from the constitution. And he will need no small amount of courage to assert Pakistani sovereignty against the West and change the policy on the War On Terror that has spilled innocent Pakistani blood not only in FATA but across the land. What about the hedgehog? Writes Isaiah Berlin, "Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of [Archilocus's] words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog's one defence." The writer is a PML-N MNA E-mail: