Intervention of President Zardari once again saved the irreversible polarization at the national level during the recent voting on the amendments of Army Act and has proven again to be the man of crises. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari emerged in the history of our country as a political legend with great courage and a stable personality who has been facing the most difficult hardships as a politician since day first and is still facing the victimization with a smile. I am witness to his rise in politics and his popularity with his workers and friends. He engaged the entire world for the benefit of Pakistan and successfully led his campaign of “Friends of Pakistan”. It was his policy that the then American authorities were convincing the rest of the world to bring investment in Pakistan whereas now due the wrong diplomatic policies, the same Americans are dragging Pakistan in FATF. The Middle East is burning today, while during his tenure, the situation between Iran and Saudi Arabia was the other way around. It was his wisdom to opt for mediation between the two Muslim states – Saudi and Iran. I played the role of a mediator under his guidance and eventually, the situation between the two countries was cooled down.
Mr. Asif Ali Zardari always accepted the wishes of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and it was her wish that he stayed away from the politics during her first tenure of the government. However, his decision to stay out of power did not spare him of any persecution by successive governments, for being the husband of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. She always consulted him on all major political issues and when she was in exile. Even during the meetings, she used to talk to Asif sahib and mostly reciting some Quranic Ayats and blow through the phone to his ears. The sufferings of Asif Ali Zardari started because of his marriage to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto which was opposed by many including Gen. Zia-ul-Haq as all of those wanted to eliminate her from the political scene. This was the beginning of his trouble and all of sudden all types of allegations started hitting him at jet speed. He faced the worst propaganda as he was arrested with petty charges and eventually was exonerated but after long-sufferings in jail. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had shared with me that Asif Zardari and his in-laws always stood with her in the most difficult days and that the opponent government offered Asif Zardari everything in lieu of leaving her but he always proved a man of courage and strong personality. The opponent government spent huge funds to sponsor anti-PPP propaganda and subsequently a movie was managed from Islamabad with ulterior motives under the name of ‘Princes and Black Prince’ which was again an attempt to tarnish the image of the couple. He faced a barrage of allegations but nothing could prove against him. He was never convicted, yet he spent eight years in prison on fake and fabricated charges. The charges were purely political as according to a report, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s government was toppled in 1990 as a result of a witch hunt approved by then-President Ghulam Ishaq Khan as he illegally paid legal advisers 28 million rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Asif Ali Zardari and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in 1990–92.
I was Director FIA HQ when Mr. Roedad Khan was the accountability advisor, appointed by Ghulam Ishaq Khan and all the moves against Asif Ali Zardari were engineered from the third floor of Presidency under a Brigadier of JAG branch who continued even thereafter the death of Gen Zia. I witnessed the victimization of Asif Ali Zardari being Director FIA and I even witnessed some of his close associates and friends turning as approvers. This was his first phase of victimization but he withstood the pressure with courage and honor but neither wavered nor succumbed to the pressure. Later in 1996, when Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was ousted again by President Farooq Leghari, Asif Ali Zardari became the prime target and was falsely indicted for Murtaza Bhutto’s murder as well as corruption charges and was arrested as part of the plan set by Farooq Leghari. Farooq Leghari also got arrested me too without charges and I remained in jail for one year and three months. I was pressurized to become an approver against both Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, which I repeatedly declined. The PM house record is witness as to how many times they tried and even once my great friend Hameed Asghar Qadawi came to me asking to switch the side and cooperate with government but again I declined. Mr. Afridi, the then-Interior Minister, got me to his residences through Assistant Commissioner Mr. Iftikhar Shalwani (now commissioner Karachi) and he gave me a message of Farooq Leghari and the minister who insisted to testify falsely against Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, which I again declined. I was offered the post of my choice, even head of the accountability but I declined. I remember that journey back to jail on a dusty road in an open Suzuki without warm clothes. The Superintendent Jail, Mr. Ajaz was disappointed to see me as he thought that I would have agreed to the lucrative terms offered by the government. It was my principle stand as Asif Zardari never asked me to do anything illegal. He was elected to the Senate while in a Karachi jail and from there he was released in 2004 and went into self-exile to Dubai and returned to Pakistan when Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007.
ihe sufferings of President Asif Ali Zardari are huge. He remained incarcerated for 11 years of his life on unproven charges leveled again him by all the opponent governments. Initially, he was arrested in November 1996 and spent 8 years long imprisonment when Supreme Court released him on bail in November 2004. While Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was still in government, Asif Ali Zardari was often targeted by the opposition’s vicious campaigns to discredit and malign him. Post-dismissal of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s government, he was arrested, tortured and jailed without conviction, all in an attempt to keep his wife away from her duties as a democratically elected leader. Many weaker men would have buckled under the pressures. However, Asif Ali Zardari stood by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto through every trial, and he survived the pain and anguish with a smiling face. While Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the opposition leader, Asif Ali Zardari was tortured extensively, which was then covered up as a suicide attempt when the intent was to murder him. They wanted to eliminate the Bhutto family, and as a first step, they went after the spouse of the opposition leader, Mohtarma Bhutto, to weaken her politically and emotionally. The repeated mental and physical torture, as well as the solitary confinement, left him with a spinal ailment which prevents him from moving around too much to this day. The lack of proper treatment led to further nerve compression. His eyes also suffered due to the long nights when he was made to stand under blazing lights and denied sleep. He was kept in physical and mental distress. The setbacks were not only limited to health issues. Asif Ali Zardari also suffered severe personal traumas because he was unlawfully jailed and kept away from his young children. His beloved mother died while he was in jail. The young children needed their father the most. And yet he persevered, only to have his wife, the mother of his children murdered brutally. And perhaps this is why Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto considered him to be the best person to lead the Party and the nation. She said that “Asif Ali Zardari is the Nelson Mandela of Pakistan” and there is no doubt in this fact. His stoic suffering made him the natural successor of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. He was the right person to lead the party at that tragic time after the assassination of Shaheed Mohtarma. I am living witness how he managed the party and also handled the other stakeholders, which is indeed a long factual story. I intend to write later on this aspect of his personality and will mention who betrayed him and how some trusted colleagues jumped from the window when memo-gate was engineered against him. Its handling and vindication of this matter was handled by me under his instructions and it was also a historical fiction that deserves a book from me to expose the real characters and which lawyer flew to the UK and with how much money for an important character of this fiction. This whole plan of Memo Gate was made against Asif Ali Zardari. He has become a symbol of suffering and new experimental object by every opponent government to create a blame game syndrome against him. He is a man with nerves of steel, and he knows how to unnerve his opponents. He is a weed to talk but hard to crack and can fight back. He is a political scientist of South Asia and will continue to be a man of wisdom with his polite manners, but he showed his inflexible determination when he refused to meet President Obama and linked his meeting with an apology from USA for the killing of our soldiers on Pak – Afghan border by US forces. Eventually, the USA has to tender its apology and thereafter he allowed the supply to the NATO forces. In June 2019, another political drama was unfolded against Asif Ali Zardari as security agencies arrested him from his house and his pre-bail applications were also rejected by Islamabad High Court. It is worth noting that the arrest came into effect when the Economic Survey of Pakistan was scheduled to be released and Imran Khan’s government was all set to present its first federal budget. President Asif Ali Zardari once again faced the same kind of persecution when he was arrested on trumpeted charges and was kept in jail from June 2019 till December 2019, without any charges or trial. It is a matter of record that till now, no government could prove any charges against him. President Asif Ali Zardari had to fulfill the multifaceted roles of his life – a husband, a father, a leader, and a friend. Mr. Zardari resolutely stood by his wife. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto always appreciated her husband’s loyalty, saying that “despite his failings, he always stood by his family no matter what”. He is a greater father as well. While President Asif Zardari had to spend almost half of his 20-year marital life in jail on fake charges, he could taste the power for only 57 months of his total married life spanning between December 18, 1987, and December 27, 2007, meaning thereby that tying a knot with former Premier Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had brought both anguish and bliss for him. My association started with him when I was Director FIA when I flew with him accidentally from Karachi to Islamabad by PIA Jumbo flight. I introduced myself to him though we had some old common friends this was my first meeting. A few days later I met him in his office in Rawalpindi old PM House and thereafter my interaction increased and I found him a man of big heart and very caring. When the first government of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was toppled Mr. Asif Ali Zardari was arrested and sent to jail on alleged corruption charges. He suffered for a very long time. Mr. Moen Qureshi took over as caretaker PM in 1993 after the fall of Nawaz Sharif government who called me to the PM House and after my interview, he transferred me from Peshawar to Islamabad FIA HQ as Director Immigration and anti-smuggling with additional assignment of investigation of special cases of corruption and corrupt practices against a political family. As a result of elections, when Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto took over the government for the second time I was already in the FIA HQ and she allowed me to continue on the same post. I must say that the impression of me having appointed in the FIA by Mr. Asif Ali Zardari was wrong.
In due course of time, it was General Babar, the then Interior Minister, who used to supervise my work and then I started briefing PM Benazir Bhutto directly on various issues and this is how she started trusting me and then I became almost one of the kitchen cabinet members. He as the spouse of the PM never asked me to do anything wrong. I can say with authority that President Asif Ali Zardari had never asked me for anything out of law or even for the posting of any official. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari created his name in politics and the International diplomatic circles and he promoted the cause of Pakistan.
His achievements as a Leader:
* President Asif Ali Zardari’s visionary leadership helped PPP to win the election. As the Co-Chairman of the Party and President of Pakistan, he steered a democratic government towards completing its full five-year term, a first in Pakistan’s history.
* President Asif Ali Zardari introduced the politics of reconciliation in Pakistan. He brought the country out of the dark era of Musharraf’s tyrannical rule. He continued the policies of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and released all political prisoners imprisoned during the Musharraf era. No politically motivated cases were registered against the leaders of any political party.
* His leadership united the Party again and gave Pakistan hope for the future. It was his bravery, patience, and persistence that made him the best possible candidate to lead Pakistan Peoples’ Party in elections against the dictator Parvez Musharraf. In 2008, Asif Ali Zardari was sworn in as the 11th President of Pakistan.
* As a leader, he always calls for democratic, progressive and liberal Pakistan. “If Pakistan has to progress as a modern state it must be driven by welfare of the people and not haunted by a sense of fear and paranoid”, he said. He rejected once again those who seek to turn Pakistan into a theocratic state. “Pakistan was never meant to be nor will be allowed to degenerate into a theocratic state”. He and PPP’s government have gone down in history books as the pioneers of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
* He has always protected the rights of minorities in the country. The party reserved four seats for representatives of minorities in the Senate, thus giving proof of its regard for people of all faiths and sects.
* He has done whatever was possible for the people of Balochistan in order to alleviate poverty. 11,500 jobs were created in Balochistan when Pakistan Peoples’ Party was elected.
* He always promoted that The Charter of Democracy (CoD) was a landmark document that hailed civilian supremacy and empowered public representatives. PPP’s government implemented 90% of the commitments that were made in the CoD.? To ensure the continuity of democracy and supremacy of the parliament, the PPP, under his leadership, stood with the democratically elected government during ‘Dharna’ of Imran Khan. It is, however, a matter of record as to how Nawaz Sharif had been betraying him to advance his own political objectives.
* Apart from his major achievement of entering and vacating the presidency in a democratic manner by completing 5 years in Government, there are many other uncountable achievements which include revival of the 1973 constitution, historic constitutional amendments with a remarkable consensus, particularly the 18th amendment, empowerment of Gilgit-Baltistan, consensus approval of the 7th NFC Award, financial and administrative empowerment of the provinces, financial protection of 75 lac poor families through Benazir Income Support Programme and distribution of 12% share of 80 government institutions among 50 lac workers through BESOS. It is him only who increased Balochistan’s share from 5.1% to 9.1% in the 7th NFC Award.
* He will stand out in history as the first president who strengthened the federation and stabilized democracy in Pakistan. Through the 18th Amendment, the parliamentary form of government was restored. By this move, being the President himself, he stripped away the power of the president to dismiss a prime minister, restored the authority of the prime minister and lifted a ban of two-time prime ministers standing for a third term.
* He changed name of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through 18th Amendment as per the wish of Pashtuns of Pakistan. The amendment reconstituted Council of Common Interests (CCI) with the Prime Minister as its chairperson while Chief Ministers of the four provinces and 3 federal ministers would be the members.
* According to the 18th Amendment, it was decided that a judicial commission will recommend the appointment procedure of superior judges and the final names of judges will be decided by parliamentary commission. A Chief Election Commissioner will be appointed through consensus between treasury and opposition.
n The 18th Amendment introduced the recognition of the children’s right to education and insertion of a new section under Article 25A to provide constitutional guarantee that state will provide free and compulsory education to all girls and boys up to age 16.
* The Amendment abolished the concurrent list, which gave provinces the long-awaited autonomy. It increased the number of seats in Senate from 100 to 104 reserving the additional 4 for the minorities. It also holds the position of a milestone as it included a number of human rights articles in the constitution.
* He has always taken a stand against the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations (FRC) that denied locals their rights. FCR denied locals the right to appeal in any court for change in conviction, the right to legal representation and the right to present reasoned evidence. PPP has been at the forefront in condemning this black law.
* As a true leader he also protected women rights during his era where many legislations on women like The Protection against Harassment at the Workplace Act, 2009; The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act, 2008; The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2008, were enacted. Under his leadership, allocation of 10% quotas for women in all jobs was increase in women’s job quota in civil service. In order to ensure women are provided equal opportunity not just in Pakistan but around the world as well, PPPs government came up with the Girls Education Initiative to narrow the gender gap in Primary & Secondary Education.
* President Asif Ali Zardari kept Pakistan together te whole country was ablaze with fires of terrorism, extremism and economic distress and it was only President Zardari who prioritized the interest of the country, despite the very personal setbacks he had suffered.
Today country is passing through numerous challenges and it is not possible for the government itself to handle it alone without re strategizing the major polices regarding both economic and Foreign affairs. I would like to advise the govt to follow thepolicies of PPP under President Asif Ali Zardari. Government needs to bring a visible relief to the public on priority basis before it shows uncontrollable reaction which might sweep the whole system away including this government itself.