Speculation was rife in Pakistan about the resignation of President Asif Ali Zardari owing to ill-health. The speculation was caused by an e-mail from a former law minister. But Zardari’s doctor and some prominent ministers in Islamabad scotched the rumour saying his condition was stable. Now Zardari himself has denied the report. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said that his country was not concerned about any speculation. A lot of politicians had been ill in the past which triggered talk of resignation but they stayed on, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Jyoti Basu for instance. It may be said that Zardari for some time had been a man who never was. He could not lead the PPP with the same firmness as did his wife, Benazir Bhutto until her death. He had been on a sticky wicket since he took over as President vis-à-vis rival leader Nawaz Sharif. It somewhat diminished the PPP’s role in Pakistan politics. He has never been at the top in controlling the troika of the government, the army and the ISI. In some ways, he had only himself to thank for his shrinking image. When Pakistani people were groaning under a catastrophic flood, he chose to remain in London for fruitless parleys with British Premier David Cameron. At the summit meetings with India, it was Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani who trotted out Pakistan’s India policy and it is not at all clear what influence was exerted by Zardari though he is not such a figurehead as his Indian counterpart. The recent report about Zardari’s willingness to return to India the terrorists who masterminded the 26/11 Mumbai outrage was either fictitious or it only proves how ineffectual he is in Pakistan’s maneuvering.
There is, however, always some truth in such rumours. Zardari’s resignation will be a blow to the PPP which will be up against it to find a successor. Bilail Bhutto is far too young and inexperienced to fill the bill. The upshot will mean more power to the army and the ISI. The development will naturally be detrimental to India’s interest.