By Ahsan

The quotation marks are because I simply do not believe Asif Zardari has the time, ability, or willingness to write op-eds. Anyway, hereunder I reproduce some choice sections from the piece, and my reactions to them.
Pakistan is at a crossroads. The gravity of the situation has led me, at the insistence of my Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), to run for president in Saturday’s elections.

Who, exactly, was insisting? Can we get some names? And by the way, Western readers, in case you’re reading the column and trying to figure out just who the hell AZ is, he makes sure to remind you in his next sentence:

My children and I are still mourning our beloved leader, wife and mother, Benazir Bhutto.

Anyway, let’s move on.

Returning Pakistan’s presidency to democratic governance is a huge step in our country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy. I want to help complete this process.

Yes, how very selfless of you. Also, nothing says “democratic governance” quite like an all-powerful President with a handpicked puppet Prime Minister, a pliant judiciary, and a subservient and family-based political party in control of the country.

Pakistani politics has always been a struggle between democratic forces around the country and an elite oligarchy, located exclusively in a region stretching between Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad.

Hmmm. I wonder where I’ve read that before. Why, yes of course! It’s Farahnaz Ispahani’s piece in The News a couple of days ago, which she started with the words “Pakistan’s political history can best be understood as a struggle between democratic political forces from all parts of the country and an establishment belonging to the power corridor geographically located between Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad.” Hahahahaha. Zardari’s so corrupt, he steals sentences from his own party.

The PPP’s success in democratizing the presidency will strengthen Pakistan’s viability as a nation.

One day, someone will explain to yours truly what exactly “democratizing the presidency” means as a phrase. Until that day, I will have to meander along aimlessly, because I simply do not know. The one step that could be taken to make the office of the presidency less authoritarian is to strip it of the power to dissolve national assemblies, but I would be willing to bet my left nut that Zardari is not referring to that.

If I am elected president, one of my highest priorities will be to support the prime minister, the National Assembly and the Senate to amend the constitution to bring back into balance the powers of the presidency and thereby reduce its ability to bring down democratic governance.

Why do you have to wait to be elected President? I’m sure an overwhelming majority of the assembly will vote to repeal 58-2(B) right now – if you ask them.

It is essential that our nation’s independent judiciary be reconstituted. Judges who were dismissed arbitrarily by Musharraf in November are being restored to the bench by the government my party leads, and I believe Parliament must enact a system of judicial reform to ensure that future judges are selected based on merit.

Just not that judge. Not in a million years. Anyway, let’s move on to the obligatory Taliban-and-al-Qaeda reference.

My views on confronting and containing terrorism are well known. I will work to defeat the domestic Taliban insurgency and to ensure that Pakistani territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on our neighbors or on NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Glad we got that formality out of the way.

Fundamentally, however, the war we our fighting is our war. This battle is for Pakistan’s soul. My wife’s inflexible stance on defeating terrorists cost her her life. My party and I are struggling to save our nation.

Dude, this is stuff you should be telling the Pakistani population, in Urdu, in interviews and press conferences, not a Western audience in an elite newspaper. The Western audience doesn’t need to be convinced this is “our war” – the Pakistani one does.

I spent nine years in prison as a hostage to my wife’s career and to my party’s future. I was imprisoned because of unsubstantiated charges — which it is now acknowledged were politically motivated — and was never convicted of anything, even under a judicial system controlled by our adversaries. I turned down countless offers of freedom in exchange for betraying my wife, our principles and our party. Those years made me a stronger person and hardened my resolve to fight for democracy. I wish I could do it at my wife’s side. Now I must do it in my wife’s place.

Great line. Honestly. What, you’re surprised I can give a compliment or two?

The dictatorial forces that have dominated Pakistan for so long are seeking partners to destabilize the new democratic government. The establishment and its allies have unleashed a barrage of attacks against me, my wife and even our children.

Nonsense. Please stop playing the victim.

My family has already paid the ultimate price for our commitment to democracy. The Feb. 18 elections were an important step in Pakistan’s transition to democracy. I hope that my own democratic election Saturday will seal the victory of democracy over dictatorship and, at long last, allow our country to defeat the terrorist threat and address the people’s needs.

Alright, well, I hope so too. I’m just not holding my breath.