The messages coming out from Naudero were somewhat mixed. In his speech as the Central Executive Committee of the PPP gathered for a meeting on the eve of the death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, President Asif Ali Zardari vowed to uphold democracy at all costs. The CEC meanwhile stated that despite the 18th Amendment the president would continue to decide all national affairs. While it is too early to say if this will translate into anything in real terms, both the undemocratic sentiment and the sycophancy are disturbing. The repetition by the CEC of views expressed earlier by the party that reopening the Swiss cases amounts to desecrating the grave of Bhutto is also rather meaningless. While the gathering to mark the 1979 hanging of the man who still defines the PPP is always an emotive occasion, it is hard in rational terms to find any link between cases of corruption against Mr Zardari – the son-in-law Zulfikar Bhutto never knew – and the grave of the late premier. There is also argument in favour of the view that the legacy of the PPP, as a party of the poor, would indeed be better served by bringing those who loot public money to book. The time has perhaps also come for the party to learn that it needs to move on, beyond the troubling events that took place over three decades ago and live in the tough times of today. Many would not disagree with the opinion expressed at the CEC that the execution of Mr Bhutto amounted to judicial murder, but we must ask what the reopening of the case at this juncture would achieve. This is all the more true given the fact that the mysteries surrounding the murder of Mr Bhutto’s daughter remain unresolved, even though her party holds power. Credibility is not a quality that would mark its tenure.
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The assertion by the president that he would never take steps to betray democracy and efforts for national reconciliation would continue are welcome. The success in building the consensus that allowed the 18th Amendment Bill to be tabled in parliament is rare in our country. Mr Zardari would do well to build agreement on a still wider range of issues. He has also once more spoken of doing all that is possible to combat terror – and with this too there can be no dispute. The question though is if the government possesses the vision to move beyond the military operation and tackle militancy in a more holistic manner. The president spoke too of conspiracies against his government and his determination to defeat them. He must remember this will be possible only if promises are delivered on and the PPP works towards translating into reality the hope that still brings hundreds of thousands to Naudero each year.