KARACHI: Co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party and spouse of the former premier Ms Benazir Bhutto Asif Ali Zardari has said that his party was not looking for crumbs of power from a dictator’s table as power cannot be carved up on a dictator’s table.
In an interview with Outlook India’s Washington correspondent from the Bilawal House in Larkana, he said, “We will take our rightful share in power under the constitution after a free and fair election as for us legitimate power can only accrue from the power of the ballot, not the bullet.” He said that as long as the remnants of dictatorship receive international support, democracy in Pakistan will be undermined.
“Since 9/11, Pakistan has received over $10 billion in overt and covert assistance. No one knows how it has been spent. Many think that this assistance has propped up the dictatorship rather than the people of the country. Musharraf rigged the 2002 elections, but the international community seems to acquiesce with it. The regime has harassed political opponents, removed and detained Supreme Court judges and lawyers; changed the constitution to suit one man; imposed emergency; and curbed media freedom,” he observed.
He said hundreds of ordinary citizens have disappeared under the garb of “war on terror”. The people expected the international community to work for restoration of democracy and basic rights in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan are sometimes puzzled as to why the international community which claims to be fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for democracy is tolerating dictatorship in Pakistan, he added.
To a query about US aid to Pakistan, Zardari said that the people of Pakistan should continue to receive international economic assistance. However, international assistance particularly the military assistance needs to be linked to democratic progress and free and fair elections. The regime in Pakistan should be made to understand that the international assistance is for the people, the 170 million people of the country, and not for sustaining the dictatorship.
“So if the regime uses international aid to wage war against its own people it will not be regarded as aid to the people of Pakistan. The first step toward ensuring Pakistan’s transition to democracy is free, transparent and fair elections on February 18, in accordance with the Constitution, under an independent Election Commission to guarantee that such elections are free and fair, and under open international and independent monitoring of such elections. The international community must ensure free, fair and transparent elections, the release of all political prisoners including judges and lawyers, the freedom of the media and the normal pursuit of political activity with full security of all national political leaders,” he said.
Benazir always though of Musharraf as untrustworthy: Zardari
KARACHI: Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto rightly thought of Musharraf as untrustworthy and that view of him is shared by millions of Pakistanis and people all over the world, said her spouse Asif Ali Zardar. Over the years, the regime offered several “packages” wanting her to stay out of the country and politics, which she refused, he disclosed in an interview with Indian daily Outlook India. Commenting on Mr Musharraf’s words holding Bhutto for her death, he said it is outrageous.
“It goes to show how inconsiderate and insensitive the regime is. They blame the victim instead of taking responsibility for their own security failures. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was campaigning for the election. Our party has grassroots support–and in a campaign, you reach out to the people on the ground; speak to them, hear their views, explain your election mandate and establish a sort of personal rapport.”
It is offensive to suggest that she was responsible for her assassination whereas it fact the regime failed to protect her, or may one say, connived in her assassination. Government leaders, including Musharraf and his chief ministers have held rallies but had enough security to protect them from assassination, he said.
“When Musharraf support base began eroding after Chief Justice [Iftikhar Muhammad] Chaudhry’s dismissal, he offered reconciliation to PPP to relieve pressure on him. Then, he went back on his word–he did not provide her security, refused to provide a level playing field for free election, refused to remove ban on third term prime minister (a ban introduced in the law through executive fiat to banish Nawaz Sharif away from politics), imposed emergency and suspended the constitution. Shaheed Mohtarma Bhutto wanted a transition to democracy and she was promised it Musharraf did not want a transition to democracy. He declared virtual Martial Law. It eroded the basis of talks and negotiations.
The regime is wrong in asserting that Mohtarma Bhutto shifted the goal posts. As a matter of fact Musharraf went back on his word. He has been running with the hare and hunting with the hound. And I think Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s assassination is the ultimate in deception.” Answering a question about Feb. 18 election as free and fair, he said that in the current state the elections cannot be free and fair. Indeed international bodies like the International Crisis Group (ICG) have already catalogued how the dice has been loaded against the democratic parties particularly the Pakistan People’s Party.
“Pre-poll rigging began several months ago. Shaheed Mohtarma Bhutto planned to give a consolidated report of complaints of rigging from across the country to the two US Congressmen later on the day she was martyred. The report had just been completed and was to be released to the international community the day after the rally.”-SANA