Is Zardari preparing to don PM’s mantle?

April 28th, 2008 - 12:01 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto

Islamabad, April 28 (IANS) Is Asif Ali Zardari, co-chair of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that leads the country’s ruling coalition, preparing to don the prime minister’s mantle? It would seem so from a missive he has delivered to the members of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s cabinet telling them how to “behave and act”. Zardari has also set up an “ethics committee” to ensure that his instructions are implemented in letter and spirit.

“The committee will receive complaints against the ministers and the MPs so as to make the party workers and common people realise that they are there to serve them and should not give them any chance to feel aggrieved,” The News reported Monday.

In his first official communication with the ministers at the federal and provincial levels, Zardari warned them against “giving any comment on the media, which does not directly relate to their ministry”.

According to The News, “many good points have been raised in the letter by Zardari, which might help the party keep a check on the activities of the ministers.

“But some feel that this letter might also overshadow the role and importance of Prime Minister Gillani, who is already not being given much importance either by the ministers, coalition partners, media or even the bureaucracy as all know that it is, in fact, Zardari who is calling the shots,” the newspaper added.

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar confirmed that Zardari had sent a letter to the ministers. He also confirmed the formation of the ethics committee. He said Zardari had issued the instructions to improve the performance of the elected representatives.

Zardari wrote that whatever semblance of democracy was being witnessed in Pakistan today would not have been possible without the sacrifices of his slain wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the other PPP workers who laid down their lives for the cause.

“The people are looking towards you - their elected representatives - to help build institutions and to serve the poor. The party and the people expect you as a cabinet minister to demonstrate the highest standard of integrity, commitment and dedication,” Zardari wrote.

“The people and the media watch you and there is no way to escape accountability and censure for failure to deliver or of any improper conduct,” he added.

“As a public representative, whether in the Senate or the National Assembly or the provincial assemblies, or as a minister, the PPP members must shun lavish lifestyles. Ostentatious display of riches must be avoided.

“Simplicity and modesty should be visible even by such small gestures as using smaller cars, avoiding big entourages and lavish dinners, etc. Use of public resources and facilities should only be for the purpose they are meant for and at no stage should we give an impression of the misuse of official resources,” Zardari maintained.

He also called for shunning overt display of power by excessive use of armed bodyguards and other symbols of power and influence like hooters and vehicles with tinted glasses.

Saying that time management was most important and that ministers must judiciously distribute their time between their offices, parliament and constituencies, Zardari said that when parliament was not in session, a member might spend time in his or her constituency unless otherwise required by the party.

Zardari also urged the ministers and others to engage with the people and share their joys and sorrows as close family members with an eye on future elections.

“The people’s interest against personal interests must be the guiding principle for the decisions you make as a minister or holder of public office. In this age of increasing public and free media attention, the rationale for any decision, which you will take will be ruthlessly examined and you must be prepared to defend it on the touchstones of public good,” he maintained.

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