It is uncharacteristic of Asif Ali Zardari to take such a hard line against his opponents, much less against the very heart of the Establishment as he did on Tuesday in his address at an oath-taking ceremony of the newly-elected PPP office-bearers from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
He was point-blank: “Stop victimising us. We have exercised restraint. Be careful now, otherwise we will expose all”. If there is any confusion about who he had in his line of fire, hear him again: “You, stay for three years and we are here to stay and never retire”. Three years is the maximum timeframe for senior military appointments, after which officers of the rank of brigadier and above are either shuffled/promoted or superceded.
And, on the platform from which he spoke sat the PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto, who is all set to take over the command from his dad. Ex-president Zardari challenged the army high command: “if you don’t stop this I will make public a list [of generals] starting from the creation of Pakistan and you will be giving explanations for quite a long time”.
Of course, there are skeletons in all the cupboards, but only a few can be allowed to come out and walk the street. One wonders if Zardari can open the cupboard of his choosing – this has never happened in Pakistan and laden with portents that are too grim to be speculated about.
The provocation for his broadside that instantly comes to mind is the arrests of five officers following a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) raid on the offices of the Sindh Building Control Authority on Monday for alleged China-cutting of 1200 plots. The recent disclosures made by the Director General of Rangers in Karachi at a meeting of the Sindh apex committee have indeed lit the fuse, accusing the provincial political leaderships of acting as a conduit for terror-financing in Karachi and other cities. May be, there is something else that rankles in the PPP supremo’s mind, we don’t know – only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.
But that said, the ground reality cannot be overlooked that in critical times Asif Ali Zardari always looked beyond his party interests and readily offered his best co-operation. Be it a threat to political continuity and stability of the democratic order in the country or aggressive posturing by Indian leaders, his support to the government in power was invariably unstinted bereft of ifs and buts.
So, even when the Rangers’ report on terror-financing appears to be a timely wake-up call, it should have been more specific instead of being more of an impression than a provable reality. Of course, there is widespread incidence of bureaucratic corruption and political interference in Karachi, and there is no reason that it should be condoned or played down. And it would be unethical on one’s part to ignore this lingering curse which has survived, in fact flourished, over the last some years. Maybe, the Rangers’ high command in Sindh, who arrived at the figure of Rs 230 billion as the illegal money that keeps alive the fire of terrorism in Karachi, was off the mark – yet not wide off the mark. But beyond that, it’s not the Rangers’ beat; the civilian authorities should take it up and deal with it in accordance with the dictate of law.
The text appeared as editorial of Business Recorder today.