President Asif Ali Zardari is back on the road to revive the Sindh Card, which supposedly was drowned and washed away by the floods. This time he has added some new words and new enemies to his list of opponents, indicating that his fears have grown and he is now being attacked not just by a section of the media but also by forces converging from many sides.

His latest survival safari into Sindh started on Friday when in Badin he not only attacked the now familiar ‘political actors’ but also clubbed with them ‘political orphans’ who, he said, were asking for an end to the feudal system, a direct hint that he was aiming his guns at the MQM, which has been asking ‘patriotic generals’ to play their role through a Martial Law-type action.

Before embarking on his Save-the-Sindh-Card Safari, Zardari revealed some secrets of his inner mind to his parliamentarians at the Presidency. The most ominous of these was his declaration, “I will not take any dictation anymore.” Who and what dictation was being given to him was not clear but putting together the sequence of events would confirm what he was being asked and whether he accepted the words of the “hidden hand”, which apparently had moved.

There was no hidden hand this time as such. The prime minister, who has always been performing trapeze act, had revealed a day earlier that he would meet the Army chief the next day. He had not mentioned that there would be a meeting of the troika but that was a part of his trapeze act deception. By stating that he had signed the summary and no letter to the Swiss authorities will be written and he would say so in the Supreme Court the next day, the PM had tried to generate some confidence in his ranks, but the troika meeting destroyed all that he was trying to achieve.

The important question, which immediately came to every mind, was who had released the picture of the troika to the media, as it was a picture, which was saying more than many thousand words. There was such tension on the faces of Mr Zardari and Mr Gilani that even a distant General Musharraf noted it and commented that they did not appear to be discussing weather in Islamabad for a round of Golf.

The mileage the Presidency wanted to achieve after the troika meeting, especially after the meaningful press statement of the spokesman, was not liked by the uniformed member of the troika. Within hours, the New York Times was quietly told what the Army Chief had whispered in the two PPP ears. It was a positive intervention of the March 16, Long March kind and suddenly it was publicly announced that no summary would be presented in the SC and the judges were happy to give more time to the government.

The PM had once again to jump on his trapeze stand and declare that a summary was not a summary until it was presented in the SC, even though it was foolishly signed by him.

When Zardari spoke about not taking any more dictation, he was probably referring to what he had been told in the troika meeting by one patriotic general and what the nation learnt through the New York Times, that the Army had asked him to sack his corrupt cronies and improve his governance. He then told his parliamentarians he would not resign, again a comment, which may have come in response to some whispered suggestion in his ear.

With these inner secrets in his mind, especially suggestions to resign or slash his cronies or avoid confrontation with the judges, Mr Zardari appears to have entered the confrontation mode once again and in his Sindh Safari he is apparently addressing political actors and political orphans, but actually sending messages to the troika members that he would like to go down as a fighter and not compromise.

He is also aware that the critical support of Washington is no longer available after Hillary Clinton’s outbursts and the World Bank, ADB, IMF and Kerry Lugar money gives no confidence in his administration.

By attacking political orphans, Zardari has made it clear that his party is now done with the MQM and may soon force it out of the Sindh cabinet. Why this may be necessary is not clear but he may be clear in his mind that MQM could no longer be trusted as it had betrayed the PPP on every critical political juncture — the NRO issue, local bodies issue, patriotic generals issue and many more.

Any radical action against the MQM would, Zardari believes, reactivate the core Sindhi constituency of the PPP and thus revive the party’s sinking fortunes. Attacking the MQM would help rural Sindhis forget what the PPP elite had done to them during the floods, or so Zardari would be thinking.

But while these moves will be strictly in his own personal or party interest, they do mean that Zardari has finally reached the conclusion that it was now too late to save his government through the coalition arrangements at the Centre or in Sindh. The tightening noose of Supreme Court judgments, together with the assertions in the troika meeting that the ‘Constitution must be followed’, leave little room for a safe exit.

These moves also mean that the time given to the Gilani government by the Supreme Court will only be used to drum up sympathy and support for the PPP and his own self and no corrective measure would be taken as discussed in the troika. So come October 13 when the government will again have to appear before the SC, nothing would have changed and the process, and wildfire speculations, would once again start flying, as they were on Sept 27.

Timed with these moves by Mr Zardari, the main players within the PPP are also changing gears. Respected leader and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan has come out of his shell and started making moves after he was ignored and not called to any key PPP meeting. Senator Raza Rabbani has shown visible dissent and even walked out of the Senate on Friday in protest against the Law Minister’s NAB ordinance. Senator Safdar Abbasi has taken off his gloves and come out directly to attack Zardari’s handling of the party. Naheed Khan has been waiting in the wings. Jahangir Badr has spoken out his mind, in a fit of anger though, but he said what he meant.

Even analysts and writers who normally take a very sympathetic and friendly view of Mr Zardari are now writing ominous things on the wall. One such writer recently wrote: …”Zardari is self-destructive, because he is hardwired to pick the worst among available options, because Zardari will be Zardari, if you will… So let’s roam through the mind of the regent of the PPP and try and figure out what his game could be… Now, if that’s the scenario you’re faced with as Asif Zardari, then an unconstitutional ouster by the unhappy uniform, a quasi-constitutional ouster by the hostile robe or a forced changed by the opportunist opposition doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

“Could ostensibly self-defeating, stupid defiance really be shrewd strategic defiance? Faced with the likelihood of a devastating knockout in a fair-and-square fight at the polls, Zardari could be opting for a TKO. That way, he and his party can bounce back, somewhere down the road, buoyed by an angry PPP base which will have forgotten about the party’s governance troubles.”

Source: The News