Mar 13, 2009
Federal Minister of Information Sherry Rehman has resigned from the cabinet. The dramatic move comes after President Asif Ali Zardari decided to block the transmission of GEO News and make it difficult for Pakistanis to view other channels, such as Aaj Television.
Through resigning Rehman regains some of the legitimacy she has lost during her service under the increasingly autocratic Zardari-dominated government. As information minister, Rehman had to put herself before the firing line and defend Zardari’s indefensible behavior with verbal gymnastics. The humiliation has been mounting. In late February, Zahid Hussain reported in the Wall Street Journal that Zardari called a senior minister a “witch” in a recent meeting. The consensus is that Rehman is the unnamed minister.
Prior to joining politics, Rehman was an accomplished journalist. She was editor of the Herald, a respected Karachi-based monthly.
The announcement of Rehman’s resignation brought to end a volatile day in Pakistani politics. In the afternoon, reports of a virtually finalized deal between the PPP and PML-N — ‘guaranteed’ by Washington and Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani — emerged. Over the next few hours, denial came from all sides. And then during the evening, GEO News’ broadcasts in much of the country were shut off at the order of President Zardari.
It is unclear where anyone stands in this complex political battle. Are Zardari and Gilani playing a good cop/bad cop game? Or is Zardari the lone man out? Is this his last stand? Is he trying to go out with guns blazing? Will Bilawal be getting a new roommate? Or is Kayani in on it too? If not, will the danda strike within 24 hrs?
I am expecting even bigger news — possibly another, far far more significant resignation — within the next 24 hours. But today’s events demonstrate the futility of predictions involving such volatile characters. Over the past two weeks, the PPP and PML-N have been trying to make things harder for the other by releasing false leaks through anonymous quotes and planting stories in newspapers. The game has been dirty.
So, fasten your seat belts, Pakistan. You’re on the Zardari Express. And I think it’s about to crash.