So, while in Canada, as the global financial crisis driven election campaign reached an end on October 14, elsewhere on another continent, an indirectly elected president of a theocratic nation-state (at least on paper), is not only tackling religious extremism and power shortages, but is also determined to stabilize what for many is Pakistan’s worst political and economic crisis.

On September 9, 2008, Asif Ali Zardari, Co-Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and widower of Benazir Bhutto, was sworn in as the president of Pakistan. Along with the office, the newly appointed president also took on far-reaching problems that had earlier punctured the popularity of his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, eventually forcing him to resign.

In fact, even before the election Mr. Zardari was widely expected to win because PPP and its allies have an overall majority in the assemblies; but does he have the much needed support of his people, the 164 million or even one-third of them, in his endeavour to achieve political and economic stability?

The question opens another chapter, one that can interestingly present a plethora of views as to why leaders in Pakistan are admired by the masses one day and considered unfit, the next. As seen at the time of 1999 military coup when majority of Pakistanis were either indifferent, or in favour of a military personnel overthrowing the legitimate government of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Most apparent one of these is mistrust between the voters and elected; another is the current prevailing mindset of the people as a result of decades of political and economic instability. Similarly, the lack of belief in the system and political unawareness due to repeated military takeovers which never really allowed the system of governance to develop or prosper, are two more.

Interestingly enough, neither of the views expressed above can be imputed to the common man, who, after being emotionally downtrodden by powerful slogans such as ‘Roti, Kapra Aur Makaan’ is left convinced to vote for the influential candidate; and nor can the candidates be held responsible as slogans and influence are politicians’ instruments used all around the world to win campaigns.

This brings us back to the issue at hand, of President Zardari, who is neither a military dictator, nor an unelected president, but someone who spent more than eleven years in prison (before the twist of fate), and is now facing tough challenges in the wake of a post-Musharraf Pakistan.

Just a few days over a month since he took the oath, and the media has been constantly filled to the brim with news stories of how uncouth and inapt the man is. Perhaps understandably so, Mr. Zardari has been convicted of murder and corruption charges, or as the March 11 issue of International Herald Tribune reports, “he is one of Pakistan’s most ostracized figures.”

In spite of the fact that his double-dealing diplomacy has not done good to the core issue of judicial independence, the reshuffling in top brass of Pakistan Army, and the replacement of Inter-Services Intelligence Director, was a well thought-out move.

Some would even bring forth the argument that President Zardari’s recent statement acknowledging that the USA has permission to attack and kill militants and terrorists inside Pakistan is nothing but a diplomatic gesture.

And to come to think of it, as long as General Ashfaq Kayani, Chief of Staff Pakistan Army, knows what he is doing the gesture does make a lot of sense. As seen when he warned the United States that “sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country will be defended at all cost.”

One has to admit that among other things it is this independent functioning of the government and the armed forces that proponents of democracy spoke of when Pakistan was being run by a military dictator. Now that it is not, what needs to be understood is that the the road to political and economic stability is a long one with many winding turns. It is indeed a step-by-step process and for it to be complete, one has to be patient and positive.

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