Killer instinct — Ejaz Haider

If Zardari is not what we wanted and if we haven’t been able to get the rulers we want so far, too bad. Maybe we are screwed because we are screwed up. Or maybe we have a secret desire to be screwed

On the shrink’s couch, Brutus Thornapple, when asked about how he is feeling, says he is feeling more and more like less and less. That sums me up also.

But definitely not Asif Ali Zardari, the new president of Pakistan. He is feeling more and more like more and more and even more and is entitled to it.

Some people say he shouldn’t be where he is. Perhaps they are right. More likely they are wrong. It depends on how one looks at it. The question is whether it is more important to be the right person at the wrong place or a wrong person at the right place and at the right moment. History generally favours the latter combination.

Zardari has shown himself a deft manoeuvrer and while fate may have played a crucial role in placing him in a position of advantage, beyond that serendipitous moment what he achieves, or doesn’t, is entirely his.

There are others who talk about his alleged propensity to siphon off money. None of that has been proved in any court of law. One argument is that that may mean nothing beyond legal technicalities; also, that courts and law can be, and are, duped.

True. But the argument that just because X cannot be proved a thief doesn’t mean that he is one ignores two points. One, the only acceptable way to prove X a thief is in a courtroom, like it or not, and regardless of the fact that courts can be, and often are, wrong; two, if X’s stealing and perjury cannot be proved, then at the minimum he may be credited for being a smart rascal.

I have often thought about the naivety of the argument that high office requires moral and sundry other types of uprightness when, if history be the judge, it needs killer instinct. And killer instinct often doesn’t sit well with uprightness, moral immaculacy notwithstanding.

There is also another problem with the non-acceptance of Zardari as president. We don’t like presidents who walk in without due process, due process in this case being what we call the democratic process. Let’s not, for now, quibble over how substantive that process is, or isn’t. But there is a procedure and that procedure may be followed because it is accepted by most actors, even if only because it is the only one available.

The point is that we desperately wanted Musharraf out because he had flouted the procedure and despite his attempt to change the rules couldn’t attain legitimacy. He is out.

And Zardari is in. He has followed the procedure. And while he may have manoeuvred his way to the top, the machinations follow the accepted script. Like the courts he may well have duped the system but frankly, can that be held against him. One can’t begin to question the rules one has accepted simply because someone is smart enough to penetrate through the protective shield, if at all.

The failure of the defensive shield is just that: the failure of defence. It can’t be cited against the one who is trying to break through it — or has.

I can’t think of one military historian who would consider the German advance into the Low Countries and northern France (Fall Gelb) and the ultimate outflanking of the Maginot Line and the blitzkrieg by Generals Rommel and Gudarien (Fall Rot) as anything but military planning and execution at its most brilliant.

One can’t fault brilliance, even if rascally. But one must, failure, even if well-intentioned.

Of course, there is always reference to the procedure versus the substance debate. The question has informed many writings in the realm of political science and galvanised many a discussion in the classroom. But it hasn’t been settled and until it can be, the business of the world cannot be put on a standstill.

In any case, settling this debate will only redound to the advantage of the “dictators”, a term we use for anyone who gatecrashes in violation of the procedure, though he may be more benign in practice than many democratic leaders.

That being so, where must we anchor ourselves? We can’t reject all possibilities; one or the other has to be accepted as a package deal. And societies cannot be delivered fresh from the womb, like a baby, so getting a tabula rasa is just a myth.

The point of this long tirade is that let’s welcome the new president, Mr Asif Ali Zardari. If he is not what we wanted and if we haven’t been able to get the rulers we want so far, too bad. Maybe we are screwed because we are screwed up. Or maybe we have a secret desire to be screwed. Either way, it’s bad.

Meanwhile, one of the editors at an Indian newspaper wrote to ask me where the centre of gravity will now lie and whether I can write something about it. Centre of gravity of course refers to where the power resides, who the world should negotiate with, and who is ultimately responsible for decision-making. I could only think of the g-spot.

Everyone talks about it but has anyone located it yet.

Ejaz Haider is Consulting Editor of The Friday Times and Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times. He can be reached at

Source: Daily Times, 7th September, 2008

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