President Zardari’s two years in office are marked by achievements and successes at the national and international level. He has used his wisdom and political acumen to develop consensus on those issues, which were previously shelved due to the lack of consensus, i.e. NFC Award. Since assuming office as a result of the exit of Musharraf, which he made possible using his political vision, Zardari has used conciliatory approach towards his political opponents to get their support on important national issues. It is easy to develop a new structure, but extremely difficult to reform the existing one. Zardari did the latter in the form of the 18th Amendment, a milestone in Pakistan’s constitutional history.
A number of achievements stand out as testimony to the strides made by the president and the democratic government. It includes 7th NFC Award, Aghaz-i-Haqooq-e- Balochistan, political reforms in Gilgit-Baltistan and Fata, 18th Amendment, reconstruction of the Council of Common Interests, allocation of 120 billion rupees to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as net hydel profit, launching of Benazir Income Support Programme to alleviate poverty and increasing gas development surcharge for Balochistan. At the international front Zardari stressed the need to further strengthen Pakistan’s relations with China and to normalise relations with India; to minimize the trust-deficit in Pak-US relations and convince the US as well as the EU countries to give more access and increase quota for Pakistani export goods.
Spirit of participation, consultation and equal opportunity are the guiding principles for the formulation of Zardari’s policy at strategic and implementation levels. Asif Ali Zardari did not allow the use of horse-trading to muster support from independent candidates in the Punjab or in the centre and opted for making a coalition government to advance the ideas of Benazir Bhutto regarding politics of reconciliation to bring the country out of crisis. When he took office Pakistan was facing threats from the terrorists who were controlling Swat and were trying to make inroads into other districts.
Following his conciliatory approach president signed the Nizam-e-Adal regulation and once it failed he ordered operation against the terrorists in the larger interest of the country without bowing to any pressure. Pakistani flag was hoisted in Swat. Within 3-months of the completion of the operation, 3.5 million IDPs returned to Swat and Buner safely.
The government also launched operation against the terrorists in South Waziristan. Terrorists’ safe-havens have been destroyed in this area. President Zardari made history by signing the landmark constitutional reforms bill into law. Zardari after taking office in September, 2008 pledged to reform the constitution. He promised that all the anomalies that were created by the dictators to protect their powers will be removed from the constitution.After the 18th Amendment the powers he inherited from the former President General Parvez Musharraf, have been reverted back to the prime minister. The significance of this gesture is that Zardari is the first president in Pakistan’s history to give up his powers and act as a figurehead president as the original constitution intended.
With the assent accorded by President Asif Ali Zardari to the 18th Amendment, the 1973 Constitution, which was passed under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has been restored according to its true spirit i.e. promotion of democracy and federalism. ‘It is indeed a great honour for me to have signed into law this bill that seeks to undo the undemocratic clauses introduced in the constitution by undemocratic leaders. ‘The doors of dictatorship have been closed forever, said President Asif Ali Zardari while addressing the ceremony after according assent to the amendment.
Reforming the constitution after 37 years of its creation was not the only milestone Zardari completed in his 2 years in office. Creating consensus on a landmark National Finance Commission (NFC) Award is another tangible achievement by Zardari regime. The NFC Award along with the 18th Constitutional Amendment is aimed at giving the provinces more autonomy and decentralizing the authority and finances from the center to the provinces.
The autonomy package for Gilgit-Baltistan introduced by the PPP Government led by Zardari is another positive step towards strengthening the federation. The area has now an autonomous status with a chief minister and a governor. President Zardari has also signed a memorandum of understanding with China for a 7000-MW power project in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Balochistan package is another milestone achieved by the PPP government. This package is a watershed in the history of Pakistan. The wrongs done to the country’s largest but least populated province over the past 62 years after the country’s creation called for an immediate cessation. Zardari made a departure from the past practice of training guns on those demanding their rights. He made a public apology for all the wrongs done to the people of Balochistan in the past and pledged to make the province an equal partner in the federation. In the past two years, the people’s government has passed a number of laws, which clearly displays its preference. It includes the Industrial Relations Act 2008, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2008, The Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act,2009, the Removal from Service(Special Powers) Ordinance 2000 (Repeal) Act,2010, the Services Tribunal( Amendment) Act, 2010 etc.
In order to uphold the dignity of labour the people’s government passed the Industrial Relations Act, 2008. It regulates the government’s vision on labour. The protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act is a modern legal instrument to provide protection to women.
The Musharraf regime had targeted the civil servants by introducing the black law of ‘Removal from Service Ordinance 2000.’ Realizing the negative impact of this black law on the performance of the civil servants, the People’s government passed the Removal from Service (Special Powers) Ordinance 2000 (Repeal) Act, 2010. Now the civil servants can work according to their conscience. The Zardari-led people’s government gives primary importance to the agricultural sector. The Benazir Tractor scheme, The Benazir Credit Card Scheme and Crop Loan Insurance schemes have been introduced for the benefit of the farmers. The people’s government is following its motto ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’ as the government has initiated the construction of 300,000 low-cost houses for the poor under Benazir Behan Basti scheme.
The recent floods have wreaked havoc on Pakistan’s fledgling economy. The government has very successfully mobilized international support for the flood victims in Pakistan. The international community has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for the flood victims in Pakistan. It belies the trust-deficit mantra in the federal government started by the media. The 4 billion rupees have been deposited in the PM’s relief fund. The government and particularly the president have put up a brave face despite media bashing and opposition. Since assuming office, president Zardari has followed an active foreign policy. At a time when Pakistan was isolated from the comity of nations, Zardari used his diplomatic vision to bring Pakistan back into fold of the international community. Normalization with India, deepening relations with China, brotherly relations with the Muslim world and strategic dialogue with US to minimize the trust deficit between Pakistan and the US are the cornerstones of his foreign policy. Pakistan has been successful on all of these fronts.
The creation of the group of The Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) is a testimony of the successful foreign Policy pursued by the president.
After the passage of 18th Amendment, the president has a symbolic stature. He is a nominal head of the state and real power lies with eth prime minister. He can only advise the government. It is the responsibility of the government to consolidate his achievements.