Important person facilitated Nawaz departure: Musharraf
The News, August 24, 2007
ISLAMABAD: President General Pervez Musharraf said on Thursday political reconciliation was the need of the hour and the ongoing dialogue process with the political leadership was a step in this direction.
“It is the need of time that there is political stability, political reconciliation and national consensus on issues confronting Pakistan,” the president told a select gathering on Pakistan Television’s programme “Aiwan-e-Sadr Sey”.
“No doubt there is a dialogue [going on] and it should be with everyone,” he said when asked about a reported “deal” with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The president said he preferred to call it a dialogue instead of the word “deal” that had certain negative connotations.
He said there was a desire to have a democratic set-up in the country and, instead of the past practice where he used to “select”, the people of Pakistan could now elect leaders according to their choice.
The president said political reconciliation was vital and in the national interest and warned that otherwise the economy could witness a downturn. He said that in the run-up to the general election, it was all the more important that there was no destabilisation. “I hope that all the political parties will keep Pakistan’s national interests supreme, ensure that there is no political destabilisation ... let there be free and transparent election, so that we can move towards national and political reconciliation.”
When asked about the 2000 agreement with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the president said, ÒHe (Nawaz) was a convict and was awarded life imprisonment ... On his own he requested and approached me and it was arranged that he leaves the country for 10 years.”
He said the agreement was struck with “a very important personality who is held in high esteem by the people of Pakistan”. The president said it was the result of the dialogue that both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif were able to leave the country and then go for medical treatment. He added that for achieving political reconciliation “there is a need for forgiving and forgetting the past because of the present political scenario and for moving ahead.”
He said that despite anyone’s likes or dislikes about the present leadership it is important that all are on board to help the country face the challenges it is facing. About the eligibility of the political leaders currently abroad to run in the forthcoming general election, the president said it was for the Election Commission to decide.
On the cases against these leaders, he said they have a legal status and he would not like to comment on them, adding that the law of the land will remain supreme. However, he said, “complete authority is with the people of Pakistan” and “it is up to the people to elect the leaders they want.”
When asked about the timing of the elections, the president said they should be held as soon as possible as the assemblies would complete their term in November. “It is government’s responsibility to ensure there is no rigging and the election is free, fair and transparent ... I can guarantee that.”
Musharraf, responding to a query as to what type of governance he preferred, said, “Democracy is the best form of governance.” However, he said it should also be with some checks and balances and necessary modifications can be made in the parliamentary democracy so that “good people” are made part of governance.
President Musharraf disagreed with a questioner who said all politicians were not fully capable of delivering. “There are very good politicians who are experts in their particular fields and there is a need to have them in the cabinet, as it is they who run the day- to-day affairs of a government.”
The president said there was also a need for having democracy within the political parties “if we want real leadership to emerge.” Otherwise, he added, there would be a lack of quality leadership in the country.
He said the democratic process needs to move forward and the people should vote for the right people and the best amongst those should be part of the cabinet. When asked about the form of government he preferred, the president said all systems needed to be tailored according to the needs of a particular country.
Musharraf, when asked whether he would doff his uniform, reiterated that he would take a decision according to the Constitution and the law for removing the controversy surrounding the issue. He said parliament with a two-thirds majority allowed him to retain the uniform till 2007 as “unity of command” was the need in the post-9/11 challenges.
“I will follow the Constitution and the law of Pakistan,” the president said and added that he was conscious about the concerns in this respect. He said he always kept the national interests of the country foremost.
He termed the military “saving grace” of Pakistan and said it reflected national integration. He said the country’s armed forces were at the forefront whenever it was required, whether it was earthquakes or floods.
He said there were certain vested interests which were critical of the Army and him. He said Army men were sacrificing their lives to protect the country from internal and external threats. President Musharraf told a questioner that the creation of the National Security Council (NSC) was aimed at providing an institutional arrangement to ensure sustained democracy and avoid military takeovers in future.
He said the institution of NSC had an important role in ensuring the continuity of democracy through checks and balances. “Bringing the Army chief in was to keep him out (from military takeover) as, if the NSC does not allow, there will be no martial law,” the president remarked. He said it was due to such institutional arrangement that the current parliament was going to complete its tenure, as against the past when the assemblies used to be dissolved prematurely due to conflicts between presidents and prime ministers, and politicians used to approach the Army chiefs to intervene.