Zardari, 'sab par bhari' Khalid Ahmed President Zardari has survived against all odds and is expected to take the PPP to the end of its tenure in 2013 or earlier if he chooses. In this period, everybody has expressed his dislike of him. He is the wrong man for the party, for the presidency and for the country. He is without principles; will make a deal where he is required to stand up for the country's honour and protect its 'ghairat'; he will sell the country to India; he will sell it to the US; and he will sell out to the MQM, which is a terrorist organisation. We say all this because we think of ourselves as an honourable state, fully equipped to look after ourselves and live according to the principles we have announced to the world. Zardari is not the answer to our prayers. Perhaps Imran Khan is, now that Nawaz Sharif has betrayed us by saying he is friendly to India. Zardari is slippery, unreliable, corrupt and perhaps even liable to be done to death because he took an oath to Nawaz Sharif then went back on it saying the agreement on restoring the Supreme Court was no asmani sahifa (divine book). Principles are always misleading. We all love a principled man; we are opposed to an unprincipled one. But if we take a close look at principles themselves we may find that some principles can be evil. In fact if realism and reason be the yardstick on which to judge them, most principles may be bad. Realism tells us that if a man is principled and also powerful, he will inflict pain on others; if a man is principled but weak he will invite more pain on himself than a man who is not weak. And countries are like men and much less subject to morality. Why was Zardari happy when the Americans killed Osama in Abbottabad? Why was Zardari trying to subjugate the ISI after Mumbai? He was going against the textbook but the textbook for once was wrong because it was based on the unwisdom of confrontation A weak man is expected to have principles; in other words we want him to be a martyr to be remembered by the coming generations. But wisdom says if a man is weak he should not have too many strict principles. Principles make you inflexible and expose you to harm. A strong state is more likely to win on the basis of principles. Here principles are mere justification for its willingness and ability to inflict pain. A weak state should not have too many unrealistic principles. It needs flexibility of response in the face of more powerful states. Zardari came and joined hands with Nawaz Sharif. This was a brave change of tack for Nawaz Sharif. He was strangely willing to move away from the party consensus. Zardari was sitting on top of a party supported in Sindh on the basis of family charisma and more helplessly supported by some in Punjab because of the country's lack of a political response to rightwing PMLN. In our parts the voter moves on the basis of ideological vendetta and not politics, hence the frog-chorus of TV anchors against 'friendly opposition'. Soon the PPP and the PMLN fell apart, to the relief of the staunch rightwing vote bank of Nawaz Sharif. Zardari triggered this divorce on the basis of his not too inaccurate forebodings of an unpredictable Supreme Court. Nawaz Sharif went back to the familiar 'politics of toppling' of the 1990s. Zardari was more familiar with power games; he focused on retaining numbers in parliament. This meant playing ball with the MQM in Sindh which went against the grain of his party. Note: innovative politics by both Zardari and Nawaz Sharif went against the grain of their parties. The plus for Zardari in this was that Army was leery of both leaders. Zardari had begun by being wisely pliant on the Mumbai terrorism unleashed from Pakistan. The Army immediately reacted against him. Since Nawaz Sharif had succumbed to the toppling instinct in 2009, Zardari became flexible to the Army. The Army despises Zardari; but the Army is scared of Nawaz Sharif. Zardari offered to Kayani the choices he could not resist. Back someone of whom you are scared and hope that he won't dismiss you; or back someone who is scared of you and will not even think of dismissing you. The choice was easy; Zardari won the day. Once he had given extension to Kayani, this front was taken care of, and Zardari was well set to win the numbers game in parliament. He could rely on the trio of secular parties - PPP, ANP, MQM - plus the rare flexible (read unprincipled) JUI to keep Nawaz Sharif from causing mid-term elections to take place. Nawaz Sharif was principled and rightwing. Principles here meant hatred of the PMLQ because the Chaudhry faction had stabbed him in the back by joining Musharraf. (The difference: you can stab Zardari in the back and he will still embrace you.) When MQM thought Zardari was under siege, it became skittish. Nawaz Sharif thought the end was near for Zardari and started talking long march. But Zardari took PMLQ into the tent - pissing out towards PMLN - and retained his numbers. Commentators who prized principles in Nawaz Sharif's battle with Zardari not long ago now told him Zardari was too clever. Zardari then faced his crisis in Sindh. After the PMLQ cohabited with Zardari, forgetting who had killed Chaudhry Zahur Elahi, the Sindhi PPP thought they could sort out MQM and its recalcitrance. The flexibility (read unprincipled conduct) shown by Altaf Hussain in the face of Pakistan's changing political canvas was not realistic. His MQM could only be a make-weight, it could not be in the saddle, and he misread the signals from Punjab where MQM was despised more than in Sindh where it had majority urban status. Zardari decided to be innovative. He backed MQM once again against his own Sindh PPP. The reasons were sound. MQM is secular and is warring with secular ANP and secular PPP in Karachi. It has a clear majority in Karachi in terms of population with muhajirs voting en masse for the MQM for the past many elections. The secular ANP has Pashtuns backing it but they are only 15 percent of Karachi; besides they are not all with ANP. ANP chief Isfandyar Wali is on record saying most of them are not from Pakhtunkhwa but from the Tribal Areas. There are 300 madrassas in Karachi mostly populated by Pashtuns and Punjabis from South Punjab madrassas. The MQM supporters are external refugees and have nowhere to go; the Pashtuns are internal refugees and can go back home, as some have, to Balochistan on their way back to the Tribal Areas. The MQM is led by a fascist but as a middle class party it has strangely prevented a large urban population from joining the madrassas which is another way of saying creating links with Al Qaeda. The muhajirs who could not bear to remain outside madrassas were all Barelvi and had to create Sunni Tehreek which is opposed to Al Qaeda anyway. Zardari sensed that his Sindhis could never be the masters of Karachi. He sensed that the US and UK both preferred MQM for these reasons. He himself saw that in the long run MQM was a better bet. He was flexible once again while his party hierarchy was not; but he was right. This time Altaf Hussain was under pressure in London. Who won? Zardari, again! Wikileaks said Zardari was friendly towards the US. India after Mumbai thought Zardari was friendly towards India. Pakistan sensed it and was angry. Why was Zardari happy when the Americans killed Osama in Abbottabad? Why was Zardari trying to subjugate the ISI after Mumbai? He was going against the textbook but the textbook for once was wrong because it was based on the unwisdom of confrontation. Those who oppose him are overcome with dubious passions. Zulfiqar Mirza is his friend but has made a spectacle of himself, scaring his colleagues into running for cover behind Zardari. In the fullness of time Mirza will, equally emotionally, beg for forgiveness. Zardari, ever flexible, will pardon him. Nawaz Sharif couldn't ever do that. Zardari wins because he has no principles in a country where principles - strategic depth, two-nation doctrine - are morally dubious and harmful to the state. There is wisdom in survival; there is martyrdom in honour. Zardari chooses survival.