ISLAMABAD: Zardari invites Iftikhar to politics

Sees no judicial crisis; rules out mid-term polls

By Shakil Shaikh & Tahir Khalil
President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday said he sees no judicial crisis in the country except a few deposed judges issuing political statements, giving a veiled warning of bringing them to politics if they did not stop doing so.

In a question-answer session with a panel of senior journalists from The News-Jang at his 5th floor official meeting room at the Aiwan-e-Sadr where energy-savers have been installed, Zardari said he sees no judicial crisis and anything of the sort. But he did advise the deposed judges, the number of which he counted as only four including the big gun, not to throw a political challenge (to the govt).

“The way these ‘former’ judges are delivering speeches similar to that of politicians, I would advise the prime minister to give them a party ticket for the Senate elections to be held next year,” he said.

“I do not see even a minute judicial crisis except a few judges delivering political speeches,” he said, adding: “Forty-two out of 62 judges have taken new oath and now it’s a problem of only four/five people as many of them have already retired.”

When asked whether these 4/5 judges also included the big gun (Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry), he said in a lighter tone that he (Iftikhar) was so popular that he might pose a threat to the government, as they had assumed the role of politicians and we would invite them to join politics and contest the Senate elections.

He said the president has the power to lift the two-year ban before any judge or government servant contests polls. He was asked how he would deal with the situation if Iftikhar Chaudhry decides to contests the elections.

President Zardari recounted his major achievements during his first 45 days in office as uniting the federation, undertaking a remarkably important official tour to China and taking on board the people of Pakistan and ANP on the war on terror.

To a question about creating a constitutional office of vice president of Pakistan similar to the American system, Zardari said the matter along with constitutional package including that of doing away with the 17th Amendment would be presented to parliament by early next year.

“The prime minister or the ruling party along with its allies would take decisions on such matters. But we have to look into what responsibilities and duties the vice president, if it happens to be, will have or whether he would be a ceremonial kind of vice president,” said the president.

On taking unpopular decisions and overcoming the power crisis, he said Pakistan might be going for new technology-based power plants. He, however, said the first step the government would be taking to save energy would be to replace more than 10 million bulbs with free-of-cost energy savers with lower voltage and more light.

“The protests against high tariff rates are urban-based and we have to take unpopular decisions,” said Zardari, who invited all and sundry with financial and economic expertise to help the nation by providing it input. “That was the reason we made Ishaq Dar, a PML-N MP as finance minister, and now he has left the government. But we still invite him to be a part of a parliamentary committee dealing with economic and energy matters and his input would be welcome.”

He brushed aside any possibility of mid-term polls adding democracy will progress in the spirit of Charter of Democracy.

To a question about Nawaz Sharif’s reported proposal of mid-term polls, Zardari said he does not see any chance of mid-term elections. “Mid-term or general elections after 5 years would be held under the supervision of the president. However, the decision to hold polls would be taken by the prime minister.”

“There is not even a remotest chance of mid-term polls,” he declared. “The Sharifs are my friends and we have signed Charter of Democracy and it would remain intact for giving strength to democracy,” said Zardari.

He referred many things towards the prime minister in the sense that he was the chief executive of the country and not similar to former president Pervez Musharraf. “The tank-commander (referring to Musharraf as a gunner) assumed the powers of chief executive and then the president and he left behind nothing but a mess. Similarly, Shaukat Aziz, who knows market economy or service industry plunged the country in an economic mess,” he said.

He said the IMF is not for filling in a begging bowl but an institution to correct a wrong. “What to talk about Pakistan, Sweden has also recently approached the IMF to save its economy and keep its financial health as robust as possible.

“When per barrel cost of oil shoots up to $147, it would generally hit us.”

He said global economic crisis would not hit Pakistan hard as our economy was not exposed so much.

He said the government and various think tanks are evolving a new strategy to effectively deal with the looming crisis and the prime minister is doing his best to keep the effect of global economic crisis away from Pakistan.

He said his Chinese visit, first official tour to a foreign country as president, was highly successful.

Zardari said all the regional players are engaged or being engaged in talks including Afghanistan and India.

“I have met Manmohan Singh once and the prime minister met his Indian counterpart twice in the recent past and our focus of talks was the water issue, as Pakistan is concerned about water,” said the president.

Zardari said the new American president would herald a new international political environment with new challenges and Pakistan has to play its role in such an environment.

He said the in-camera parliament session has led all to evolve a consensus on national security strategy and its outcome would be far-reaching.

He said the Balochistan issue would also be debated in parliament.

On his forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, the president said his visit to Saudi Arabia would give new heights to the strategic brotherly relations with the Kingdom.

Zardari proudly announced that he has far better personal understanding with Saudi royal leadership than anybody else.

He said it is 4th government of the PPP in Pakistan, which is bent upon giving strength to Pak-Saudi relations under new realities.

Source: The News, 26/10/2008


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