President Asif Ali Zardari has said that he was ‘not aware’ of any agreement between the government of Pakistan and the US administration regarding drone strikes in Pakistan.
“May be General (r) Musharraf had made some sort of agreement with the US, but I am not aware of any such agreement nor I have seen it during my five-year tenure,” he told in an interview with a select group of Pakistani television anchors on Sunday.
Zardari said he will not contest the next presidential polls later this year as his Pakistan Peoples Party no longer has a majority in the national and provincial assemblies. However, he said he would assume the PPP leadership if the party wanted him to play that role.
He said winning party’s leader Nawaz Sharif is the main character who would decide about future of Pervez Musharraf and take ultimate decisions on other issues. To a question about granting presidential pardon to the former military ruler, he said that he being head of the state was bound to take ‘reasonable’ steps.
Zardari insisted that the PPP-led government had not struck any deal with the US on drones operation. “Those who have said they will shoot down the drones, let them shoot them down. You know about the capability and capacity (of Pakistan), it is not like shooting down an eagle. (Even if we) suppose the drone is an eagle and you shoot it down. What happens after that,” he questioned.
Asked about the incoming PML-N government’s plans to hold peace talks with the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), President Zardari called for a cautious approach, saying it would be better to engage ‘political forces’ instead of directly talking with militants.
“If a dialogue is to be held with these forces and if this is the mandate of this (new) government and they want to hold a dialogue with these forces, they should first identify which forces are political and which are militant… Then by starting a dialogue with the political forces, you can use their influence on the militants because militants, in my view, do not hold dialogues.”
Though Nawaz Sharif has said he intends to hold dialogue with militants, the TTP withdrew its offer of peace talks after its deputy chief Waliur Rehman was killed in a recent US drone strike, which was condemned by the incoming prime minister. The PPP, which led the previous coalition government at the centre, was voted out in last month’s polls. The PML-N attained a simple majority in the lower house of parliament.
Zardari said his party would prefer to play the role of a vibrant and constructive opposition at centre and it would support Nawaz to get him elected unanimously as prime minister as was done in the case of former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani. He expressed happiness on the first successful transition of power between democratically elected governments in the 66-year history of Pakistan.
But President Zardari said it was not just Nawaz and his party which should be credited for this positive development; rather, all the parties had played their roles in the strengthening of the democracy. He added, “If the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf is going to be their real opposition, then let them (PML-N) expect opposition from it. Let them expect us (PPP) to be a constructive opposition. We will never resort to negative opposition.”
“This time, I will not have the right (to contest the presidential election) because we do not have a majority. Yes, there can be a fight but that fight will become messy,” Zardari said. “After that, if the PPP considers me capable of leading it, I will take on its leadership. Otherwise, I will function in the capacity of a worker,” he said.
Zardari said the PPP-led government had done more for the insurgency-hit and impoverished Balochistan province than the Baloch people themselves. “The government did a lot for Balochistan, the Baloch (leaders) themselves did nothing… But you cannot help those who are not willing to help themselves,” he added. Throwing light on law and order situation in Karachi, he said that non-state elements are involved in disrupting the normalcy of the metropolitan.
Responding to a question about the Swiss cases, Zardari said he had already spent eight years in jail and yet no charges had been proven against him. He said it was a controversial matter which did not hold any importance in his eyes.