Zardari Returns a Hardened
Abdul Qudoos (KHALEEJ TIMES EXCLUSIVE)
15 March 2005
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (N) will
cooperate in the forthcoming polls to local bodies in Pakistan next
month, Asif Ali Zardari, husband of PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto,
himself a PPP leader, former senator and minister, said in an exclusive
interview with Khaleej Times.
members of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) we will
contest the elections together," he said.
Zardari has no intention of taking over the party leadership from
Benazir and is content with acting as a pointman and implement her
decisions. He also said he was more than willing to work under Makhdoom
PPP, he pointed, was not taking up issues as forcefully as it should in
some cases in view of the present international situation. He revealed
that the PPP, should it return to power, would reduce the government
term from five to three years.
cases filed against him, Zardari was confident he would win them all in
the courts of law. He said that the PPP wanted to establish a truth
commission which would be unlike the National Accountability Bureau.
Zardari while in Dubai is treating his muscles the Ayurvedic way. The
years spent in jail had cramped the use of his muscles but he has come
out a more calmer person.
now collecting material to write a book which, he says, will be an
insight into Third World politics and how humans are capable of becoming
inhumane. Following is the text of his interview:
your return to Pakistan on April 16 confirmed? What are the arrangements
being made to welcome you back in Lahore? Are there any objections by
the government to your leading a rally there?
16 is a definite date for my return. It coincides with the date when
Benazir Bhutto landed in Lahore (in 1986 during Gen Zia-ul-Haq's rule).
The party is busy making arrangements for my return. Chaudhary Shujaat,
Minister in the present government, has gone on record saying that they
do not want me to organise rallies. I think rallies are being permitted.
When there were no objections to those rallies, why should they object
to my rally? I am going there with clear intentions. We shall prove to
the world what PPP is and what our strengths are.
Benazir Bhutto has indicated that she will hand over the party
leadership to you on your return to Pakistan in April. What are your
priorities and plans?
think this has been misconstrued. There is only one leader in the PPP
and that is Benazir. I am a good aide and I can also be a good pointsman.
I intend to go to Pakistan, become a pointsman and implement her
instructions. But we are not aspiring to take over the leadership from
her although people are trying to give the issue a twist.
take over leadership from her, one must first be deserving and then
comes desire. I do not match up to that merit. I don't even intend to
take over Makhdoom Amin Fahim's position. He is doing exactly what the
party has asked him to, and I can work under him too.
there any special reasons for your decision to spend more time in
already have a house in Lahore. I have settled down there. There is a
lot of conspiracy going on in Pakistan. There are fault-lines in every
country which show up in difficult times. Many fault-lines are now
surfacing in Pakistan. Fortunately or unfortunately, the region has
always made history, which has an impact on our country. It can be
advantageous if proper care is taken.
moment, the leadership does not have the wisdom or vision to take
advantage. Punjab has always been misused, PPP has always been strong in
the region. What we need to do is to galvanise our cadres to save the
is the progress on the major decisions taken on reforms at the PPP
meeting in Dubai over two years ago?
are being implemented in phases. Political parties and democratic forces
are always involved in implementing reforms to increase their
capabilities. PPP is always looking at itself and improving. It has
implemented many of the reforms. There is increased interaction among
the four provinces, and local units meet more often now and come up with
future programmes. A lot of work has been done in updating the
manifesto. Presently, meetings are being organised to look into the
issue of local bodies elections. We are organising seminars on democracy
and restoration of democracy in Pakistan.
Faction politics is rife in the PPP, both in Pakistan and the UAE. No
effort has been made to remove differences and bring them together. Some
people allege that the differences are deliberately being maintained by
the party leadership. PPP workers have also complained that they are not
rewarded for their long affiliation and sacrifices when it comes to, for
instance, giving party responsibilities and party ticket for elections.
are always lobbies in the parties. They are not factions. I disagree
with the views that workers are not rewarded. The workers are here to
stay. The proof of the pudding is always in eating. We have managed to
survive and succeed even under some very difficult circumstance, for
instance, during the elections. It is a different ball game when they
kidnap our leaders and make them their chosen ones.
government has been in touch with the PPP off and on. When was the last
contact made? What are these talks about? Is there any progress on the
PPP demand to hold elections in 2005 instead of 2007 as scheduled? Will
the next meeting take place soon?
is a million dollar question that I can't answer. But, I will tell you
as much as I can. We are always engaged in trying to convince them of
our point of view, and are hopeful of bringing them around to accepting
the PPP and Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), feel that the
way the country is being run is not the way it should be. We need a
fresh mandate, since the deck of cards is ready to collapse. The PPP
manifesto makes a point about the tenure of the government, and we are
willing to debate a three-year tenure.
government's position is that elections will be held in 2007, while my
position is that 2005 should be the election year. I wouldn't like to
comment on the timing of the next meeting.
PPP cooperate with PML (N) in the forthcoming local bodies election in
both members of the ARD and therefore it is very possible that we can go
for the local bodies elections together. As members of the ARD, we meet
every 15 days. At the moment, it is struggle against the present
government for democracy.
is the progress on the implementation of the agreement reached with PML
(N) in Jeddah in February, 2005, for a joint struggle for democracy,
supremacy of the Constitution and sovereignty of Parliament?
was definitely an understanding where both parties agreed to implement
the 1973 Constitution in its original form. It is a pleasant and a very
progressive position whereby Muslim League, which has always been
uncharitable to us on the 1973 Constitution, has come to accept this,
which is a big victory for the PPP. Being part of ARD, we are always in
ready to accept President Gen. Pervez Musharraf holding the two posts of
the President and Army Chief?
position on this is clear. The ARD does not accept an individual holding
two posts. Whether it will be accepted at a later date or not is a
decision for the party to take. We are fighting for a full, free
democracy. That is our goal.
is the solution, in your opinion, to the present crisis in Balochistan?
Do you agree that the tribal leaders are hindering development of the
province to maintain their hold on the people?
Depends on which type of leaders you are talking about. Some tribal
leaders are a little aggressive and there are others who are loved. As
far as I am concerned, modern technology and modern thought process
should be accepted.
is no tribalism and feudalism. These are institutions used by the
establishment for their own gains. Otherwise, there are families in
Pakistan who own large tracts of land, but cannot politically come out
victorious against lesser known persons.
elections are free and fair in Balochistan, none of the tribal leaders
can win. A lot of things have also gone wrong in Pakistan. A lot of
people are deprived of their rights and I think we need to engage them
in long-term dialogue and do things the democratic way by giving people
their rights rather than taking them away. Some 25-30 years ago, Bhutto
Sahib abolished the legal structure of Sardars. But it is still in vogue
in certain places with the help of the establishment which I am opposed
not believe in tribalism. The law of the land should be implemented in
all areas. There should be judges and courts in all the tribal areas.
Justice should be rendered within the framework of the Constitution of
Pakistan and decisions should not be taken under tribal Jirgas. PPP is
very clear on that.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had successfully abolished the hold of capitalists
to give due rights to the labour. Do you think that to complement this
policy of empowering people, it is also necessary to abolish the hold of
feudal landlords to give farmers their due rights?
feudal system is used by the establishment for its own political gains.
There is no feudal system otherwise. All these so called big feudals are
people siting in the government, whether they are Chaudharys, Sardars or
Waderas. They are a bunch of people who got together and the PPP
struggle is against them. The PPP is opposed to their kind of thinking,
and therefore people are with us.
Feudalism has already been abolished. In the olden days, feudal lords
could even convict you. Unfortunately, these are educated ignorants.
Yes, there is a lot of misuse. Let us see how they react to PPP in the
government. There would be no private jails when PPP comes to power.
right for the Opposition to take to the streets to press for its
demands? Or do you think an appropriate policy is to continue with the
struggle from Parliament and other such fora?
should be a bit of both. We are not completely against street
agitations. At the moment, the party has not called for it. We are
engaging everybody in Parliament and that is a very effective place to
agitate. Street agitations are the last resort.
had said at a recent reception that the PPP had decided to allow the
Generals to rule so that people can see for themselves who can rule and
who can't. Would you like to explain?
Sometimes when you are standing still, you step aside a little for the
wind to pass by. Countries are considered families of the world and
there is a lot of upheaval nowadays in the family. There is a lot of
thought process going on.
has happened in the world, and 9/11 has changed the world totally.
Therefore, maybe we are not taking up issues as forcefully as we would
like to in some cases. We are politicians who intend to be there after
the turmoil is seen through.
you in favour of giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis?
course, definitely. We could not do it when we were in power. We did not
have enough time. There are a lot of things we intend to do in the
are facing a long list of corruption, criminal and corporate cases in
Pakistan. Are there any moves to withdraw these cases which you say are
best part of truth is that you can't hide such things for long. The day
I went to prison and our government was illegally dismissed in 1996 was
our weakest time politically. My brother-in-law had just been
assassinated. The Opposition and the establishment struck at us. Since
then, we have proved that this is all politics through our actions,
which is good for history and posterity because I feel that in today's
climate, the software which is becoming very important is recorded
nothing else, the coming generations will learn from it. Today, there is
nobody in our part of the world who has an iota of doubt in mind that
these were false cases.
as the West is concerned, in their minds and in their so-called strength
in morality and institutions viz-a-viz judiciary and others, they can't
perceive a situation where people can stage-manage holocaust. They feel
that if there is smoke, there has to be fire.
moment, in our part of the world, it is all clean and everybody has come
to the conclusion that they were politically-motivated cases. We are
trying to project this face of the coin around the world. The cases
against us have been thoroughly doctored. Otherwise, there is no case
that has been going on for eight years. This is because of lack of
evidence in those cases.
the world is supporting the present establishment and therefore
everybody is being accommodative towards them. But, we are confident of
winning the cases.
were 21 cases against me. I have won 10 of them from prison. In nine of
these cases, I was not sentenced. In the last one (Pakistan Steel Mills
reference), I was sentenced (by an accountability court), but I won the
case at the (Lahore) High Court.
knowledge, the government has not gone in appeal. So that settles the
issue. I intend to win the other cases as well. I am making judicial
history, because when I am fighting these cases, I am also making new
case laws. If a well-known person like me can be incarcerated for eight
years, innocent people can always quote my example while seeking
justice. I am fighting for the cause of humanity.
plan to file cases, or take action if possible, against all those
responsible for keeping you in prison, torturing you and dragging the
cases against you for several years without conviction? What is the
action taken by the government in response to your complaint against the
five people who tortured you in Karachi?
not against all of them, but a few. One should not get overly negative.
I do not believe in doing what others have done to you. I have already
moment, I have already gone to the court against Saifur Rahman (former
chief of National Accountability Bureau); Rana Magbool (former Inspector
General of Police); Farooq Amin (Deputy Inspector General of Police in
Karachi), who are in fact responsible for torturing me (in prison in
1999). (Two others accused in the case are Saif's brother Mujeebur
Rehman and jail superintendent Najaf Mirza).
took me a year to go to court and get some form of direction and I am
moving forward. A case has been registered, but they have not yet been
summoned or charged. I do not carry any malice against anybody. I feel
that it should only be done as an example so that it is not repeated.
Regarding filing cases and taking action against others, it is not just
me alone who suffered, but a lot of our leaders. It is for us to, at the
right time, get together and see who has done what to whom and to the
PPP manifesto has a point on Truth Commission, and that is a better
option. We have not debated on this with other parties, but I think
there has to be a national consensus on this subject. It will be nothing
like the National Accountability Bureau, which is a political tool used
by the governments to hold on to power.
is the status of the case pending in the Swiss Court? Will you also
attend the proceedings of that case?
lawyers represent me in the Swiss Court and I am hopeful of winning
there also. At the moment, there is no case. There is only an enquiry,
just like a police enquiry, but conducted by a magistrate there. The
whole thing is that if a sovereign government comes up with falsified
evidence, how do I convince the Swiss magistrate that it is falsified
Benazir ‘is an exceptional lady’
was the effect of eight years of detention on your health? Have you
consulted doctors about Spondylitis and other health matters in Dubai?
Do you plan to continue the treatment abroad or in Pakistan?
prison, incarceration, stress and lack of movement take its toll. A
person who can't sit in one place, cannot survive in jail. The biggest
constraint in jail is that you can't move. You stay in one place, and
meditate or whatever else you do, you live in your space. One has to
learn to do that. I managed to survive in prison. I can sit in a chair
for hours and that is what I did.
the unfortunate incidents that took place, I was taken to torture cells,
deprived of sleep and made to stand or sit in uncomfortable postures.
That did not help my back, and my spine has taken the toll for all the
years because I was not allowed movement.
(in Dubai), I have consulted a few doctors at the Iranian Hospital. I
have also been trying Ayurvedic medicine from India for the past few
days now. These doctors come every morning. Hopefully, I expect to
improve. There has been muscle deterioration in every part of my body.
My throat pains if I talk aloud or for a long period. I have a choice
between the Ziauddin Hospital in Karachi, the Iranian Hospital in Dubai
and the Ayurvedic medicine from India. Somewhere in between, I will find
a suitable medium. It takes a month for all your muscles to respond to
Ayurvedic treatment. I am hoping to recover.
not plan to be treated in Europe or in the US. I think that the Eastern
practice on bones and muscles is the oldest science and we are much more
advanced in the East than in the West. Also, I can't travel long
distances, not more than a 90-minute flight. I had a trouble when I
travelled to Jeddah on a three-hour flight.
there been any changes in your personality as a result of spending long
years in prison under torture and being away from the family?
Anybody who goes to prison undergoes changes, viz-a-viz his personality.
I feel a lot of change in myself for the better. The education from the
universities and the training people get in today's environment,
restrict thought. People have stopped thinking.
the time I spent in jail gave me time to think a lot. I am very thankful
to God that where I lost a lot, I also gained a lot. Now I am a much
calmer person, and I can think beyond my own intuitions.
children, Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Asifa, have grown up in your absence,
and have been without their father's direct supervision and guidance for
over eight years. Do you find them as per your expectations or do you
feel that your presence would have made a difference? Also in your
absence, Benazir Bhutto has been playing the role of a wife, mother,
father, daughter, political leader, in addition to fighting cases in
Pakistani and foreign courts, besides attending to family matters.
thing good about getting married to a good family girl is that at times
of crisis, family values show up, and she (Benazir Bhutto) has been an
exceptional mother, father, teacher, organiser. Of course, she is the
most competent woman in the world, and this reflected in all spheres of
activities. She is an exceptional lady who became the first Muslim woman
Prime Minister and Chief Executive. It is not surprising then that she
can do justice to any role that she dons. She has, Mashaallah, done that
with our household. Yes, of course, if I was around, I would have got in
a little bit of my rule and wisdom as part of their upbringing.
my children are teenagers, an age when parents tell you that children do
not have time even for them. They have a busy schedule, going to school,
then tuition. Thursday is for friends and Friday is mostly Baba's
(father) day. Benazir has managed to mould them into good human beings
in this period of crisis and that is what matters. I’ve lost time. I’d
have loved to put them on my lap, that is when bonding takes place.
has to give that up, and there is also another aspect that I would like
to propagate in my new vision for Pakistan and for the world if
possible. A lot of people are living for their own self, without being
affected by what happens around them. We need to increase awareness of
what is happening around us because all that is going to be part of our
life does affect us, whether we like it or not. She is an exceptional
lady. I feel sorry that the country has been deprived of her leadership.
Benazir Bhutto's is like the Shakespearean tragedy. The people of
Pakistan want her, the world appreciates her, her qualifications are
beyond comparison in Pakistan, yet some feel they can do without her.
She has managed to keep herself intact, her charisma intact, me intact
in prison, the party intact, and the public support intact.
must remember the tremendous odds that she was fighting against. For a
singular party or a singular lady, or even a man for that matter, to
bear it and manage to survive is a great victory. There is nothing that
the establishment didn't do against us. I told one establishment
representative that there are people in politics around because of you
and some are there despite you, so please give us that respect.
Question : What are the contents of the
book that you are writing and when is it expected to be released?
Answer: I am contemplating writing a book. I have not put pen to paper
yet. I have a research boy gathering material on the period of my
incarceration. When the book is written, I can assure you that it will
be an insight into Third World politics and how humans beings are
capable of becoming inhuman.