ISLAMABAD, May 22: President Asif Ali Zardari and prime minister-in-waiting Mian Nawaz Sharif, heads of rival political parties, met after a long time in the presidency on Wednesday and vowed to promote reconciliation.
Mr Sharif was invited to the presidency, along with the heads of other political parties, to a luncheon hosted by President Zardari in honour of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
Although the two leaders and their parties have political differences, President Zardari will administer the oath of prime minister’s office to Mr Sharif as his party is going to form government after securing the highest number of seats in National Assembly in the May 11 elections.
The 15-minute meeting between the two leaders took place after the Chinese prime minister had left the presidency.
The one-one-one meeting was later joined by PML-N leaders Senator Ishaq Dar and Senator Pervez Rasheed.
Mr Sharif told President Zardari that all political parties must work together to protect the country from challenges it was facing.
Mr Sharif remained composed during the grand gathering attended by top politicians, bureaucrats and military leadership, and did not mingle with other guests. Both Mr Sharif and President Zardari were looking rather tense.
The PML-N chief sat beside Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, but they did not talk to each other.
Talking to reporters, President Zardari declared Mr Sharif the next prime minister and the latter said he had no intention to seek resignation of the president.
“We will stick to the agenda of reconciliation that we agreed upon with Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto,” Mr Sharif said.
Asked if the meeting would improve the relationship between him and the president, he said: “Pakistan’s interests are supreme (for me). If my interests are more important, this meeting would never have taken place.”
“He (Mr Sharif) is the prime minister. There is no doubt about that,” the president said, adding that the presidency would support the incoming PML-N government.
He expressed the hope that the new government would successfully resolve problems and issues facing the country.
The president said his meeting with Mr Sharif was held in a cordial and pleasant atmosphere. He congratulated Mr Sharif on his party’s victory in the elections and wished good luck for the new government.
He congratulated the nation, all political parties and civil society for the peaceful democratic transition taking place for the first time in the country.
The president’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said the political situation in the country and issues relating to the transition were discussed in the meeting.