LONDON, June 18: President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday declared that the Legal Framework Order could not be undone and he would continue as the chief of army staff as “unity of command comes through one person in order to give stability to the nation”.

Speaking at a lunch organized by the Pakistan Council and the Pakistan Bankers Association here, the president said elections were held under the LFO.

“If the LFO is not there, elections will be invalid. The Supreme Court allowed me to amend the Constitution. I will not remove my military uniform, nor would give a time in this regard. I understand uniform has to be removed, as it is not democratic.”

“When I see functional democracy and stability in the country, I will give up the post of army chief. God has placed me in this position. If I have to wear 10 hats in the interest of the country I will do that,” the president added.

Gen Musharraf said: “We are passing through a transition stage in view of the situation in Afghanistan, relations with India, as well as Iraq and Palestine conflicts. There is instability at home, region and the world. The unity of command comes through one person in order to give stability to the nation.”

He emphasized that the democratic process must not be derailed and that functional democracy should continue in the country. “We have tailored democracy according to our requirements,” he stated.

The president referred to Article 58(2)(b), the National Security Council and his military uniform which were being said to be “contentious” issues. “The LFO has given protection to the local government system and the banking sector. The local government system is a silent revolution in Pakistan, as it has empowered the people to spend funds on development schemes at the grass-root level,” he observed.

Gen Musharraf stressed that a check and balance should be maintained in the powers of the president, the prime minister and the army chief, as each one of them had usurped power in the past. The National Security Council would keep a check on the president, the prime minister and the army chief. It would not be a supra, but a consultative body to give stability.

The president said there was no sectarian extremism in Pakistan now as those involved were either dead or in jail. Moreover, the counter terrorism organizations in the country had been revamped.

DISSOLUTION: President Musharraf said on Tuesday that the Constitution and parliament were for the nation, and expressed the hope that time would not come to dissolve parliament.

The president said this while responding to a question on relations between the government and the opposition during an interview with British TV Channel 4 telecast on Tuesday night.

Replying to a question, the president said he had the power to dissolve parliament.

He stressed that the nation was supreme. “If the nation is in trouble, I have to take a decision in the national interest,” he maintained.

The president stated that the economic reforms initiated three years ago would not be allowed to be reversed.

Asked about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, Gen Musharraf said some reports suggested he was alive and hiding somewhere in Afghanistan.

KASHMIR ISSUE: In an interview with Prime TV, President Musharraf ruled out any “sell-out” on Kashmir and called for flexibility from both sides to resolve this long-standing dispute through dialogue.

He said there would never be a sell-out, but “if there is rigidity, the solution will never come”.

President Musharraf said there was neither any pressure nor any change in the foreign policy. Kashmir is a dispute which must have a solution.

As a first step, both Pakistan and India should begin talks. Kashmir should be recognized as a dispute in the second step and this problem could be solved, he said.

Then there should be a process of elimination of what is not acceptable to India, Pakistan and to the Kashmiris, and a headway could be made towards the remaining solutions for this issue, he added.

Emphasizing the need for flexibility, the president said if one side was inflexible the other side too would adopt similar attitude and the dispute would drag on.

To another question, he said talks should be held between Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali and Atal Behari Vajpayee.

However, if India wanted to talk to him, he had no problem in doing so but he would keep on board Prime Minister Jamali in this regard, the president added.

Fielding another question, he said Islam, Muslim countries and Muslims were being branded “terrorists, extremist and fundamentalists” after the Sept 11 terrorist attack.

On the other hand, he stated, the Indian ruling party had the backing of extremists and what happened in Indian Gujarat was unfortunate as 3,000 Muslims were killed in riots there. The same chief minister was elected with majority in the state. These were the issues the world should analyse, he emphasized.

Responding to another question, the president said Pakistan should safeguard its interest by all means including diplomatic, economic and military.

When asked about relations with Israel, the president said if Israel and Palestine could reach a peace agreement, Pakistan could, in consultation with Arab and Muslims countries, think over the issue. Many countries had extended recognition to Israel, but as far as Pakistan was concerned the nation should debate it and then decide what sort of attitude should be adopted about Israel.

He said print and electronic media should conduct a debate. He maintained that if the Middle East peace process moved ahead then Pakistan would have to decide whether it needed to review its policy vis-a-vis Israel.

To another question, he said: “Democracy is the rule of the majority. Majority wants me and wants me in uniform.”

The minority was being dictated by people from outside who were least concerned about democracy in Pakistan. They were least bothered about the LFO or the Constitution, he said, adding they were only interested in personal gains.—PPI/ APP

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