Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Amin Fahim: Always the Bridesmaid...

Asif Ali Zardari-Bhutto has declared that he is the only person fit to lead the PPP and become the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

In today's DAWN, Anwar Iqbal reports that:

Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has indicated that he may be the next prime minister if the Feb 18 elections bring the party to power.

In an interview to Newsweek, Mr Zardari based his claim to the country’s highest office to Benazir Bhutto’s will who, he said, clearly named him as her successor.“There is not one single personality [in the party], apart from me, who anybody even knows,” said Mr Zardari while explaining why he thought he should be the prime minister. “No one else has a consensus.”

Setting aside the ludicrousness of his will-based claim, I just wonder what Nisar Khuro, Raza Rabbani and Aftab Shaban Mirani have to say about the above statement.

And lets not forget Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Benzir's trusted lieutenant who was instrumental in restructuing the PPP in a manner that would give Benazir complete control; control that was in large parts implement by her through him. Amin Fahim is immensely respected within the PPP and has tremendous 'street cred'. His father was Talib ul Maulah, the famous Pir of Halla who was revered throughout Sindh and looked upon as a spiritual, moral and, ultimately, political 'guide' (imagine a more important Pir Pagara).

Its ludicrous for Zardari-Bhutto to assume that the consensus, if there is one, regarding his leadership will last. I imagine that he knows this and is using his current position to strengthen his political footing. This is going to be a hard task for him, considering his past differences with important members of the PPP elite. One notable incident that I recall involves Ali Nawaz Shah, landlord and party stalwart from Mirpurkhas and one of Benazir's closest confidant, who famously banned the entry of Zardari into his house and informed Benazir, who would pay frequent visits to seek advise, that she was only allowed into his house sans Zardari. (That she continued to visit him must've really pissed Zardari off!)

Another point to note is that Mr. Zardari-Bhutto is not even on the ticket for the up-coming elections. So for him to become the Prime Minister he would have to pull a Shaukat Aziz (have an elected MNA resign, contest the by-election, get elected to the National Assembly, have the recently nominated PM (Amin Fahim?) resign and then himself get nominated as the PM). And all of this can only happen if a PPP led coalition gets a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly!


In another DAWN Article, Amir Mateen asks the following questions:

"Will the PPP survive [Benazir's] absence? How will the second tier of PPP react to Asif’s ascension in the long run? Will party maintain its national character? Is there a possibility of a merger with Ghanwa Bhutto? How and when will the next generation of Bhuttos-Bilawal, Fatima and Zulfikar enter the arena? How will the provincial wings of the party react to the new realities? How will Amin Fahim and the rest of the Sindhi leadership behave? What will be Aitzaz Ahsan’s role? Who will join which group in the new power play? The fundamental question remains that how will Asif Zardari carry Benazir’s legacy."

And concurs with Zardari's assesment by stating that:

"the best person suited to keep the party together at this stage is Asif Zardari. Amin Fahim, Aitzaz Ahsan, Aftab Shabaan Mirani, nobody could have done it better than Asif. Like it or not, as said by Safdar Abbasi in a recent visit to Naudero, it had to be a Sindhi and from the Bhutto family."

He also gives us a fascinating insight into the whirlwind world of Zardari-Bhutto:

"The new Ceaser, like in most political parties, was surrounded by courtiers, each one of them vying for a pound of flesh. The journalist team, of which I was a member, missed the flight to Sukkur because the ‘Saiths’ of Karachi, the wheeler-dealer kind, got us offloaded. Everybody wanted to be in Larkana. We found some of them still waiting outside Asif’s room when we landed in Naudero after a rough bus ride of 12 hours. Also present were the Mafioso types who shared jail days with Asif. Now, what should he do? If he sees them we get a juicy story. If he does not, that’s not Asif the ‘Yaron ka yar’.

"For us, the fellow penpushers, Farhatullah Babar and Sherry Rehman, were good enough. But there was an extra troika of media maidens competing with each other for the ears of the Ceaser. One of them, wife of a one-time Bhutto-hater, has had a shouting match with another competitor. She is now quite close to the PPP power centre. Quite a comeback for a man who remains in self-exile in the USA, especially after his spilling, at one stage, all the PPP beans that he had at his disposal to become part of the Musharraf regime."


AKS said...

I forgot to mention my amazement regarding Amir Mateen's reference to Safdar Abbasi's quote. How exactly is Asif Zardari a Bhutto? My calling him Asif Zardari-Bhutto doesn't make it so!

bubs said...

Zardari has a seat open for him if he need; NA-207 which is Benazir's seat. It won't even require an MNA stepping down. The graduation condition will be a bigger problem. If a PPP-led coalition has a sufficient majority I suspect removing the graduate condition will be there first order of business.

Risha said...

I think we are all getting ahead of ourselves. read the original story in Newsweek. Zaradri does not say he is the PM candidate and in fact says he cannot be. The Newsweek reporter conjectures from Zardari's assertion that he is best suited to lead the party that he wants to become PM.

The Pakistani media has given its own spin to the story. The PML-Q wants nothing better than an opportunity to bash Zardari. Many "progressive" journalists who had joined the "blame Zardari" camp during the 1990s find it difficult to acknowledge that the charges they reported, and which became the basis of many cases, ended up without being proved after a decade. So they need to feel good by talking about how good BB was while wondering if AZ is upto the job. That's not different from what the uncles did with BB: "ZAB was such a great man but his daughter is not really up to the mark."

Amir Mateen has resurfaced as a reporter after many years but he is still the same opinionated idiot he always was. His stories should appear on the opinion page, where they belong, than being published as news stories.

Wait a day and the PPP, and AZ, will put this one to rest.

AKS said...

@ bubs

I was under the impression that there would be a PPP covering candidate for NA 207. And even if an MNA didn't have to resign, a Prime Minister might as it would be a while before the by-elections are held.

I feel the graduate requirement is ludicrous. If Amir Liaquat Hussain can get a PhD online, Zardari can manufacture a BA from friggin Harvard.

@ risha

I'm confused. Amir Mateen, the idiot, is all praise for Asif Zardari and his role in keeping the party together. Correct me if I'm wrong but that appears to be your opinion as well, so why the hostility?

Your assertion, that Zardari's non-prosecution on charges of corruption is somehow indicative of his innocence truly confounds me. Do corrupt Pakistani politicians ever get convicted? Are the true extent of their assets ever revealed?

Moreover, I don't think that BB was all that good and even if I did, it would not stop me from feeling that Zardari is a dodgy man who is not fit to lead the largest political party of the country. That the party's decision to appoint him, and his 19 year old son, was premised on the 'will' of their dead leader leads me to have an even lesser opinion of the party itself.

Is a political party worthy of support if its leadership doesn't have the balls to stand up to basic democratic principles?

Risha said...

If you learn to read the newspapers like those of us who have been seen the manipulations by ISI first hand, Amir Mateen is doing a sophisticated hatchet job while pretending to be Asif Zardari's sympathizer.

Do some real research. All the nasty stroies about BB and AZ during BB's second stint in office came from three principal sources: Kamran Khan (known for close ties to ISI), Najam Sethi (who immediately upon BB's removal from office was named Adviser to PM by President Farooq Leghari and who even today has a soft spot for Mush) and "critical sympathizers" like Amir Mateen who wrote stories similar as the current ones. The purpose is to set AZ up as either corrupt or foolish, which is how the establishment wants the educated middle class (already not favorably disposed to the political class)to view the politicians.

I am a supporter of democratic politics and am realistic enough to recognize that democratic politics would always entail imperfections. In India, people choose between Congress and BJP and alternate between them, even though both parties are often found lacking in some idealistic way.

My view is that political parties would behave differently if the army and ISI did not manipulate Pakistan's politics. They would still have flaws but politics is about flaws. That is why idealists blog and do not run for office. When US Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was asked in a TV debate "What would Jesus say about..." he said, "Jesus does not have to run for elections and would not be part of politics."
So, ordinary mortals who recognize the limitations of politics do not sit on a pedestal and judge against standards applied by holier-than-thou commentators.
Right now, I would rather have PPP led by Asif Zardari than a PML or PPP led by those under the ISI's influence. I dont know if you saw the gallup poll that showed 53% of Pakistanis supporting the choice of Bilawal and Zardari. Quite clearly the man in the street understands something about real politics some of us do not.
It is moot whether the charges against Zardari were correct or not. In law, he was not convicted. In political opinion, voters appear ready to support a party led by him. That is good enough for me though I understand if it is not good enough for you and others who do not support any existing Pakistani political party and do not have the critical mass (or inclination?) to form a new one.

Hope that addresses your questions.

Anonymous said...

Fatima Bhutto is the only hope for Pakistan.

Mr. 10% should give back the billions of dollars he and his wife stole from the Pakistani people. Then, he can talk about leading Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Watch Fatima Bhutto on

Anonymous said...

fatima Bhutto is not even in the PPP. How can she lead a party she does not belong to?

Her father undermined benazir Bhutto during the Zia years with his revolutionary and violent rhetoric. His death was tragic but his life is nothing to write home about.

Her step-mother Ghinwa is the one that cooperated with ISI, again, to undermine BB. Fatima is too much under her influence.

Fatima is, no doubt, bright but she has to get over her anger towards her aunt, fed to her by her step-mother. Then she should join PPP, become an MNA and rise to the position that her talent deserves.

By railing against those who struggled for years against all odds, she will end up like imran Khan: Popular on the blogs but unable to win a seat in elections.

Dodgeball said...


I agree, Kamran Khan Najam Sethi and Amir Mateen are responsible for all the bad press that Benazir had received. Everyone else loved her. Kamran Khan Najam Sethi and Amir Mateen are also prosecutors in Switzerland and produced a set of trumped up charges against the couple. They then also used their positions at Time magazine to do another hatchet job upon her by doing an in depth cover piece on her imperfections. I would also add that Zardari never ever ordered anyone to be murdered.

Clearly if AKS criticizes Zardari, he supports dictatorship and is against democracy. Because in my humble opinion, if someone isn't completely partisan, then they are holier than thou bloggers. I mean that very humbly.

Risha I also strongly agree with your citation of Mike Huckabee, who is a true leader. He is certainly someone who knows how to keep religion and ideals out of politics. I also like him for that.

The charges against Zardari are also moot and irrelevant, yes, because there is no conviction.

The charges against ISI are also moot and irrelevant, yes, because there is no conviction.

Sorry, my computer had a glitch, it duplicated some text. I was saying. I think that all such accusations, however much they are based on fact, are irrelevant if the Pakistani legal system cannot deliver a verdict as to a persons guilt.

And moreover, while that is true for Zardari, it is not at all true with regard to the ISI and Musharraf kutta because as everyone know they both killed Benazir together, everyday. And there is no need for a trial or conviction to prove it. The last time I checked, two and two make four.

Besides, AKS, whats the point of your opinion if you cant even start a political party? Loser.

AKS said...

@ anon 1
Fatima Bhutto has a long way to go.

@ anon 3
Ghinwa - ISI nexus. Really?!!

@ Dodgeball
Oh why must you expose my failings so! But thank you for showing me the light; I must become rich and powerful before I utter another opinion. Cheers for that. I should buy you a beer for your guidance but I don't think I'm cool enough!

@ Risha
I think dodgeball has covreed much of what I'd say. I'd just like to point out a few thingd.

First and foremost you’ve misquoted the Gallup Poll. I've included it at the end.

I agree with you when you say that political parties would behave differently, and for the better, without Army / ISI intervention.

However I can not agree with your contention that the Establishment is out to paint all politicians in a bad light; the establishment only does this to out of favour politicians. You fail to realise that most leading politicians have, at some point in time, been part of the Establishment – the term reflects who holds power (needless to say the Army is a constant).

Having grave questions about Asif Zardari’s leadership, and the selection process by which he and Bilawal landed the leadership of the PPP, does not make the person asking these questions an elite, intellectual “holier than though commentator.”

I oppose Zardari not because he is the leader of the PPP but because I feel he is unfit to be the leader of the PPP.

Asif Zardari has had serious problems with various members of the PPP leadership for years and these may exacerbate under his command and cause serious damage to the party.

More importantly Zardari does not have a powerful political constituency of his own, which really is a prerequisite in Pakistan. As a result Zardari will always rely on others to prop him into power. This might’ve been a good thing, if it wasn’t for the fact that Asif Zardari will court the basest elements of the PPP for political support.

There is a historic fissure running through the PPP, which reflects the contradictory nature of Z. A. Bhutto himself – a progressive, socialist politician who remained an elite feudal lord to his core.

The progressive elements of the PPP have lost tremendous ground to other members of the party who bring in money and a ready made voter base. Zardari’s political weakness will result in him courting the latter. This may have a profound impact on the future course of PPP’s politics.

There is a parallel to be found here with the change in the PPP’s student wing. PPP’s affiliate student organisation in the days of yore was the National Student Federation. The NSF had always provided the PPP with fiery urban supporters - (from Justice (R) Rasheed A. Rizvi to Nadeem Farooq Paracha). These student leaders stood up for the politics that made Bhutto famous and were the intellectual voice of the PPP.

Zia’s crackdown and the militarising of Islami Jamiat Talaba weakened the NSF and the shackled PPP was unable to prevent its demise.

Compare the NSF with PPP’s current student wing, the People’s Student Federation (PSF), a thuggish ethno-centric party that is dominated by the sons of the rich, powerful and vile.

With a bit more urging the current PSF cadre will completelydominate the PPP; and with Zardari at the helm this process will be hastened.

As promised here are the results from the Gallup Poll. (The man on Gallup's street doesn't really seem to like Zardari all that much; perhaps they're idealist types who don't know the limitation of politics!)

Question 1.

“Who should lead the PPP after Benazir Bhutto?" (first round carried out during December 30-31), Gallup provided two options, Asif Zardari or Amin Fahim.

Amin Fahim (48%)
Asif Zardari (30%)
Others (17%)
No Answer (5%)

The Second Round of the survey was carried out after the succession issue.

Question 2

‘People’s Party has chosen Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as its head. Would you say they made the right or the wrong decision?’

Right Decision (53%)
Wrong Decision (28%)
No Answer (19%)

Among PPP voters

Right Decision (74%)
Wrong Decision (14%)
No Answer (12%)

Question 3

‘If you were a member of the People’s Party Central Executive Committee, who would you have supported for party leadership:

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (47%)
Sanam Bhutto (21%)
Asif Zardari (6%)

Among PPP voters

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (64%)
Sanam Bhutto (21%)
Asif Zardari (5%)
No Answer (5%)