WASHINGTON, June 26: President Pervez Musharraf has declared in no uncertain terms that he will not relinquish power any time soon, saying, “I know the people of Pakistan want me to continue as the President of Pakistan.”
He made the same statement twice on Wednesday, first at the US Institute of Peace and then at the inauguration of the new Pakistan Chancery where he said that he had a firm grip on the nation’s affairs.
Saying that “functional democracy is not easy to implement in Pakistan,” he said “there are anti-democratic forces waiting to take advantage of the democratic process to undo the reforms and restructuring my government has introduced in the last two years.”
These forces, he said, wanted to foist their narrow agendas upon the broad masses without their knowledge and consent. He made it clear “this will not happen and I shall have an oversight role in ensuring that it does not happen,” declaring that “numerous polls have made it clear that the people of Pakistan want to discharge this responsibility.”
Observing that the previous democratically-elected governments brought the country to the brink of economic and political disaster, he said: “I knew that the people of Pakistan needed reason to hope and an honest and sincere leadership and his government could deliver this hope.”
While underscoring that now there was no corruption at the top he said: “I know the politics of fraud and deceit led to frustration and violence. I was therefore determined to guide the nation from the dead end of kleptocracy masquerading as democracy to a promise of participatory democracy and good governance.”
“We had to change the Constitution so that we could have a sustainable democracy, not the democracy that had failed before.” He said his government had a three-point agenda for Pakistan: fighting terrorism, fighting Al-Qaeda and Taliban and fighting sectarianism. “There is no room for such isms in Pakistan,” he declared.
KASHMIR ISSUE: Commenting on the peace process now under way in the Subcontinent, President Musharraf said: “I am willing to acknowledge Prime Minister Vajpayee as a partner in a historic peace process.”
“This should be aimed at altering negative public attitudes and stereotypes on both sides of the border while moving towards a broad range of cooperation and a just and mutually acceptable resolution of Kashmir and other issues.”
Recalling his earlier offer that he was ready for a dialogue any time any place, he however declared: “We do not accept any pre-conditions.”
He said: “If instead of a peace process India insists on a permanence of an unjust status-quo in Kashmir when this status quo has been the problem from the very outset, then it would be creating obstacles in a peace process rather than facilitating it.”
President Musharraf said: “We want to deal with India as a sovereign nation and equal partners.”
Saying that “we realize our stake in better relations with India,” he said: “If India can adopt a similar attitude towards relations with Pakistan then our efforts to resolve our differences on Kashmir and other issues need no longer tread the barren paths of the past.”