May 292008

Fasi Zaka

I started watching the Indian Premier League really late. The names of the teams were to me too off-putting to be taken seriously. Honestly, the Knight Riders? But the first match I watched was in which Shoaib Akhtar made a magnificent comeback to the game for Kolkata.
Since then I have been hooked, but I always found it somewhat irritating to see Shahrukh Khan hogging the limelight of his team. It was almost as if SRK felt that he was the captain. Recently when the ICC banned his entry into the locker room of his team, the KKR, the actor has thrown a hissy fit. He was banned from the locker room by the Anti-Corruption Unit of the ICC to prevent outside access while a team is playing.

While the KKR has been playing miserably, it manages to steal the press spotlight because of the owner’s shenanigans. There are reports that SRK doesn’t get on with the coach and the captain of the team. Of course he wouldn’t: they are probably miffed as hell about the interference of SRK into the locker room, the stadium and beyond without actually knowing a tenth about the sport as they do.

But why does this all sound familiar? Seems like a good analogy of the PPP government, and its manager/owner Asif Ali Zardari. Yousaf Raza Gilani doesn’t seem to be able to get his act together because he is constantly upstaged by Zardari. I am sure it wouldn’t be a stretch to presume the real nod for executive action comes from the unelected of the PPP.

Herein lies the real problem: when Zardari took over the reigns after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto he shocked everyone by coming up with a radical vision that put politicians back in the game after years of military rule.

It seemed like a changed man was putting national interest above all else, especially since he was often the target of vitriol for being a self-serving politician. By creating the grand coalition he has managed to change the rules of Pakistani politics.

But now, it seems like expediency is overtaking vision. The turnaround on the judges’ issue has been attacked relentlessly, and the basis of the attacks IS the fear that an individual is compromising a national movement to save himself from a possible overturn of the NRO.

The same is true of the outburst aimed at the Presidency. While President Musharraf is no doubt guilty of much and should be shown the door, now is not the time. With critical infrastructure issues, the return of inflation and the shortage of essential goods, the last thing democracy needs is an upheaval at a time when the government has pressing day-to-day matters to attend to.

Zardari needs to realise that his reported option of calling snap elections will not return his party favourably to the centre; if anything, it is the PML-N that will benefit most.

Whether it is the PML-N or the PPP which holds the reigns doesn’t matter at this sensitive time, but what is absolutely crucial for the country is that the PPP remains a national party of significance. Unfortunately, it all ties up to Zardari. Without him bearing the torch of the legacy politics that defines this party, it will become factionalised, and ultimately, regionalised. Which is why, more than anything, the PPP needs to muster strength and keep him in the background since he started to lose the plot. If Zardari becomes a persona non grata in the eyes of the public, then there is no second tier that will be able to keep the party together without a power grab that will disintegrate it.

What we really need now is an ICC equivalent, meaning the PPP cabinet, that bans Asif Ali Zardari from the locker room. The government needs to be able to continue with its work; the 100 day agenda was nothing less than a joke, a deadline the PPP was as serious about as the judges’ reinstatement promise. They need the promises of the 100 days to get through, and removing the president then wasn’t one of the points. There is no disagreement that Musharraf’s time is up, but now is not the most apt of times for it.

Let’s hope the government ends up playing a long Test match, patiently and for the long run; going the 20/20 way will be nothing less than disastrous.

The writer is a Rhodes scholar and former academic. Email: fasizaka@
sOURCE: tHE nEWS, 29/5/2008

 Posted by at 7:54 am

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