Credit of strong democracy,smooth transition to power goes to all political forces:President Zardari

Credit of strong democracy,smooth transition to power goes to all political forces:President Zardari

KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari Sunday said the credit  of strong democracy and smooth transition of power following the May 11  elections goes to all political forces, which ensured that  democracy remained the main driving force of the country.

In an interview with a panel of journalists here, the President said not only Nawaz Sharif but other political parties like the Awami National Party (ANP), Muttaida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam of Fazalur Rehman worked hard to strengthen democracy.The President once again felicitated Nawaz Sharif on the success of his party in the general election and said the Presidency would extend full support to the government in the discharge of its duties.

“It was for the sake of this democracy that leaders like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and the workers rendered innumerable sacrifices, as we believe that democracy is the best revenge,” the President said and added it was for this democracy that he and his family and workers endured long terms in jails.To a question whether he wished to be in the run for the next term as the President, he said he believed he had no right to participate in the next Presidential election. He, however said that he would take a decision, if asked  by the PPP. He said he would complete his term as it was a constitutional obligation.

Regarding the performance of the Pakistan People’s Party in the general elections, he said he would respond to the question after September, when he was no longer the President of the country and would be free to express his  political views.To a question, the President said that if Nawaz Sharif wanted to be elected as the consensus Prime Minister of the country like Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani was elected in 2008, then Nawaz Sharif would have to approach all the political parties.The President said the PPP would play the role of a constructive  opposition in the next government. He said the PPP would not be an opposition for the sake of opposition.

The President said it was important for all political parties to stand united to confront the current challenges facing the country, as it was not possible for any single party to manage on its own.Regarding NRO and Swiss cases against him, President Zardari said that National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and Swiss cases were the charges for  what he had been sent to jail for eight years.  He said that, in his opinion, these cases were controversial and carried no substance.The President, when asked which of his children were more politically  active and whose future was more bright on the political arena, said he  believed all were politically motivated and had equal potential.

Regarding the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, the President said the feasibility for the project was prepared during the earlier tenure of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and it was planned that all the IPPs would be shifted from oil to natural gas. He, however said that after her ouster the project got delayed.He said Iran too got busy in providing gas to Turkey and his government had to re-initiate the process, that took a lot of time. He said India too backed out of the project and time and again the terms and conditions had to change.

The President said that during his tenure his main focus was regional alignment with special focus on China and added that Gwadar Port would  make alignment with China.To a question he said Pakistan had barter trade arrangements with Iran, Turkey and China and gradually their trade would start to benefit from it. The President also mentioned the status of GPS plus that Pakistan achieved after a great deal of work with the European Union, while progress was being made with the United States for easing of tariff barriers.The President said that they were leaving the federating units more stronger and now the non-state actors could not get benefit of it.

About the MQM, he said, the PPP had better relationships with Altaf Hussain and hoped that the MQM would play the role of a constructive opposition in  Sindh.To a question regarding PML-N chief’s Mohammad Nawaz Sharif dialogue offer  with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the President said, if this government wanted to talk with these forces then there was a need to identify whether or  not Taliban had political mindset, as extremists generally do not negotiate.Speaking on Balochistan issue, the President said that the previous government undertook many development projects for Balochistan, however more progress could have been achieved had the Baloch people participated proactively in development of their province.

He said that he himself asked Speaker of the National Assembly to constitute a Parliamentary Committee to give the rights to the people of Balochistan, and said he was pleased that it did its job and a comprehensive package was given to Balochistan.Regarding the drone attacks, the President said that the PPP-led government  had not signed any agreement with the US government over drone attacks, however,  he was not aware if former president Musharraf had made any such agreement or not.Responding to a question about the future of former President Musharraf, President Zardari said it was up to next Prime Minister designate Mohammad Nawaz Sharif to decide what action he planned to take, after he assumed his  office.

Asked if he would pardon the former President, he said, if such a  request was made to him by his family, he would take an appropriate decision.President Zardari said that shooting down a drone aircraft was not  an issue, and the real issue was the repercussions of such an action.Regarding the law and order situation in Karachi, the President said non- state actors were active in the port city.To a question about load shedding and the problems faced by the people, the President said a number of factors could be attributed to the problem as increasing demand, greater industrialization and increase in exports amounting to $25 billion created more demand. He also pointed to the greater struggle between the power houses and issues of circular debt that compounded the problem.  He however said that the government made sincere efforts to address the issue. – APP