PRESIDENT Asif Zardari did not have an auspicious start to the tour of the Punjab, but he himself did not help with his pronouncements. The citizens of Lahore, or a select gathering from among them, got an inkling of the high-pressure security environment in which the President functions, from the environment that President Zardari brought with him. It was as if he had moved from one bunker to another, from Islamabad to Lahore, where he did not move beyond Governors House. A potent symbol of the bunker mentality was the mistreatment of party workers on Thursday at the gate of the Governor House. Party workers, who merely wanted to see their Chairman, were denied the privilege. This is not the main reason why a president should not be head of a political party, but it does supplement the other reasons adduced. President Zardaris desire to use this tour to practice popular politics will founder because of this fixation with security. This is where his pledge, made to a carefully screened audience, to hold open kutcheries in the province every month, will also founder. Once the element of security is introduced into them, they will no longer remain open to all, and the desire of the President to reach out to the public will come to naught. This idea serves as a twin acknowledgement: that todays PPP no longer has the rapport with the masses that it once enjoyed; and that PML(N) leader Mian Nawaz Sharif does, and his methods, which include the open kutchery, deserve to be imitated. The President also said that his trips abroad were meant to secure money for the poor. This is an example of justifying something that has no justification. The burden on the exchequer placed by those trips abroad far outweighs any money that would come in. Though this is not the time to engage in the debate of whether such money, which consists of loans, is worth it, even though the President started it with the 'trade, not aid slogan he borrowed from his murdered wife, the President should be willing to answer queries about exactly how much money he has brought home for the people of Pakistan, especially when it is compared with how much money was expended on those trips from the exchequer. It is not just foreign trips, but even this trip that deserves to be questioned for its utility, especially as the President is hiding in a bunker much as in Islamabad. The President, and those who plan his visits, should make sure that his time, which belongs to the people of Pakistan, is used more fruitfully than at present. Jaunts at home should not be a substitute for those abroad, especially not for the President.