Wednesday, September 3, 2008
World Media Lambaste Candidate Zardari
While Asif Ali Zardari’s meteoric rise will be complete with his seemingly inevitable election to become president of Pakistan, grave doubts about his character, based on persistent allegations of corruption and violence, will continue to linger in the minds of many in Pakistan and the world. Here's a sampling of how Mr. Zardari is seen by the world media:
Excerpt from Wall Street Journal's Global View Column by Bret Stephens:
Al Qaeda and the Taliban feed on chaos, and a Zardari presidency will almost certainly provide more of it. For Pakistanis, this is a self-inflicted wound and a rebuke to their democracy. For the rest of world, it's a matter of hoping that Pakistan will somehow muddle through. For now, however, this looks like a Category 5 hurricane, dark and vast and visible just offshore.
Just how bad is Mr. Zardari? It would be a relief if it were true that he was merely suffering from dementia, a diagnosis offered by two New York psychiatrists last year. But that diagnosis seems to have been produced mainly with a view toward defending himself against corruption charges in a British court.
Mr. Zardari -- who earned the moniker "Mr. 10%" for allegedly demanding kickbacks during his wife's two terms in office -- has long been dogged by accusations of corruption. In 2003, a Swiss magistrate found him and Mrs. Bhutto guilty of laundering $10 million. Mr. Zardari has admitted to owning a 355-acre estate near London, despite coming from a family of relatively modest means and reporting little income at the time it was purchased. A 1998 report by the New York Times's John Burns suggests he may have made off with as much as $1.5 billion in kickbacks. This was at a time when his wife was piously claiming to represent the interests of Pakistan's impoverished masses and denouncing corrupt leaders who "leave the cupboard bare."
Excerpt from UK's Times Online:
An election victory would be a huge turn of fortune for a man who was nicknamed “Mr Ten Per Cent” because of allegations, denied by him, that he received kickbacks when his wife was the Prime Minister. Mr Zardari, 52, has spent a total of 11 years in prison on a variety of charges, longer than any other Pakistani politician.
Excerpts from AP Report:
Asif Ali Zardari, the man poised to become Pakistan's next president, is still known as "Mr 10 Per cent" because of corruption allegations. Now his own lawyers say he may have suffered from mental health problems within the past year.
That has left many Pakistanis wondering: Is this the best man for the job?
"People have short memories, but not that short," said Rafat Saeed, 42, as he parked his car in the bustling city of Karachi following a week of political turmoil and relentless violence by Islamic militants.
"His name is synonymous with corruption!" Friends and family say Zardari, widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, is fine now and fit to rule. But the questions over his psychological state could continue to haunt him.
Excerpt from New York Times:
Switzerland has released millions of dollars in assets belonging to Asif Ali Zardari, a leading Pakistani politician who is expected to be named the country’s president next week, Swiss authorities said.
The value of the assets is about $60 million, said a Swiss official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the figure had not been disclosed publicly.
The Swiss action came as a shock to Daniel Devaud, the judge in Geneva who originally investigated the charges. He said it should not be interpreted as a sign of Mr. Zardari’s innocence.
“It would be very difficult to say that there is nothing in the files that shows there was possibly corruption going on after what I have seen in there,” Mr. Devaud said in a telephone interview. “After I heard what the general prosecutor said, I have the feeling we are talking about two different cases.”
Excerpt from The Economist:
Whatever Mr Zardari’s past reputation, optimists hope that the gathering of power in his hands as president might, just possibly, bring a little more political stability to Pakistan. At the least, it would make the PPP accountable for its handling of the country’s twin crises: a plunging economy and spiralling Taliban insurgency, which on August 21st saw a suicide attack outside a munitions factory in the town of Wah that killed 67 people. Hitherto, the government has seemed too absorbed in bickering between the PPP and PML (N) to give much thought to these problems. Indeed, it has had no permanent finance minister since May, when Mr Sharif withdrew his nine ministers from the government.
Can Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, expected to become the 13th president of Pakistan this Saturday, succeed with this elephant of massive corruption charges in the room, and still help unify Pakistan in its most difficult hour? Can he prove the media pundits and the skeptics wrong? Only time will tell. Let’s hope for the sake of Pakistan and world peace that he is truly a changed man, and pray that he does succeed in bringing peace and prosperity to Pakistan and its neighborhood.
Here's a video clip of Asif Ali Zardari interviewed on the eve of Pakistani elections in February, 2008: