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President says no to army role in Karachi

Updated September 05, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Sept 4: President Asif Ali Zardari has rejected a call for deployment of army in Karachi to rid the city of terrorism, lawlessness and an endless wave of targeted killings.

Talking to journalists in Parliament House on Wednesday during a farewell reception hosted in his honour by the opposition, he said: “There is no need to call in the army.” The term of the president ends on Sunday.

He said PPP, the main opposition party which he heads, would fully support the government. “We will support the present government during its five-year term.”

He vowed to help the PML-N government in its efforts to develop the country and promote democracy. “We will ensure that no-one derails democracy.”

About talks with the Taliban, the president said nine peace deals had been signed with the militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas but all of them failed. “They (militants) come every now and then with new demands.”

About the previous PPP government’s moratorium on executions, he said it was a continuation of the policies of former prime minister and PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated on Dec 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi.

But he indicated that the moratorium had been announced in view of European Union (EU)’s reservations on death sentence and linking with trade. “Because of conditions put forth by the EU, we have to abolish the law of death penalty to access trade corridor of Europe,” he said.

“We announced the moratorium because we have seen our system, our courts and judges and do not require a system in which innocent people can be hanged,” he said.

Answering a question, the PPP chairman admitted that the PPP had suffered a defeat in 2013 elections because of its “weaknesses and wrong decisions.”

Asked if he was satisfied with some key decisions taken by his government over the past five years, the president said most of the decisions he had taken were yet to bear fruit. “I hope that the present government will enjoy the benefits of the decisions we had taken,” he said.

Without mentioning the Pakistan-Iran Gas Pipeline project, he said the present government would continue the PPP policy on relations with China and Turkey.

Clad in black suit and appearing relaxed, President Zardari spoke about his future plan after leaving the presidency on Sept 8 and said he would remain in active politics.

“I cannot say about my children Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Aseefa’s future plan but I will be setting up camps in all major cities to frequently meet PPP workers. I am happy on my freedom (from the presidency). I could not meet my workers over the past 15 years and now I wish to meet them, my friends and relatives,” he said.

He said his younger daughter Aseefa Zardari Bhutto had got her vote registered in Tando Allahyar Khan on Wednesday.

The reception was attended by Speaker of the National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Raja Zafarul Haq of the PML-N, Haji Adeel of the Awami National Party and several lawmakers from the Senate and the National Assembly.

During the reception the president also mentioned turmoil in Syria and said that entire Arab world was boiling these days and warned: “This can come to Pakistan too.”