President Asif Ali Zardari’s declaration that he would soon move to Lahore to pursue his struggle against political opponents in the province is an utterance that is in blatant defiance of the verdicts of the superior judiciary and only Wednesday’s decision of the federal cabinet. Both the Supreme Court and the Lahore High Court have decreed that the office of President is a neutral office in the sense that it has to serve the interests of the whole of Pakistan and not that of any particular political party. The cabinet is also reported to have given a go-head to the Election Reform Bill 2012 that specifically bans canvassing by President, caretaker Prime Minister and Governors. Ever since Mr Zardari entered the Presidency, he has been making no secret of his continued political activities; he has continued to function as Co-Chairman of the PPP and his address at a political rally at an Eid Milan party in Punjab’s Mandi Bahauddin on Wednesday was only in continuation of that role.

However, Mr Zardari’s assurance that the general elections would be held in time and would be free and fair and the electoral rolls would be free from fake entries is welcome. Without these basic elements the real intent of sending people’s representatives to Parliament cannot be fulfilled. What is, indeed, incomprehensible is his remark that the chaotic situation in Karachi, with a frightening tally of daily bloodletting, does not suggest government’s failure. He should know that it is the first and foremost obligation of the State to protect the life and property of the citizenry. That the situation in Karachi is being created by terrorists to undermine Pakistan’s efforts in the war on terror does not absolve it from that basic duty. The buck stops at the government’s door.

The noble sentiments Mr Zardari expressed by urging the various parties to sit down and think of the future generations, to paraphrase his words ‘what Pakistan would and should be 50 years hence’, are no doubt unquestionable. That certainly is the earnest wish of every patriotic Pakistani. As it is, the reality on the ground over the past nearly five years of the PPP-led rule speaks differently. With inflation rising uncontrollably, the standard of living of the people has been going down; with the evil of insecurity spanning the entire country, their lives are under constant threat; and with corruption knowing no bounds, one would expect little of development work to take place. Unless these public concerns sink in, his tall claims would only be seen as hot air.