LONDON, July 12: PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto said on Thursday she was now more worried about country’s future than about democracy because, according to her, the rising extremism in Pakistan was threatening the very existence of the state.
Addressing a press conference, she held the extended military rule responsible for the emergence of what she called this dangerous situation and hoped that the army would go back to barracks soon, fair and free elections would be held and there would be a smooth transition to civilian rule.
“Just imagine what would happen if these extremist elements were to take over a number of mosques in the country and challenge the writ of the government. How is the army going to cope with this situation?” she asked.
She said the army was already over extended and called for immediate end to its operation in Balochistan.
She did not rule out the possibility of the PPP joining the new alliance-- All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) --as and when it felt the time had come to do so.
She said though she was opposed even to the holding of the MPC at this juncture, still she agreed with most of the resolutions passed at the two-day conference.
“We, however, have reservations on some portions of it.”
Despite a barrage of questions which were aimed at forcing her to say something unsavoury against Nawaz Sharif and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Ms Bhutto refused to oblige.
It was clear from the way she talked about even the MMA that she was trying to refute an impression gaining strength since the formation of the APDM that the PPP was out on a solo flight and was also seeking an accommodation with the military-led government.
She said the PPP was opposed to a uniformed president and also to the idea of Gen Musharraf getting re-elected from the present assemblies.
She said the time for resigning from the assemblies was when the Election Commission would announce the schedule of the re-election of the president from the present assemblies.
However, she added, she did not expect the EC to call for such an illegal and immoral election. She also said that the best time to form a grand alliance of all political parties was when the government would finally rig the polls to try to steal the forthcoming general elections.
“We can spread out through the length and breadth of the country and build up enough pressure on the government to relent through a unified agitation.”
She claimed that the ARD was intact and that most of its members had not joined the APDM. She also claimed that there was no difference between the objectives of the ARD and the APDM.
She refused to question the intention of Nawaz Sharif in going ahead with the formation of the APDM minus the PPP.
She said she was in a long-drawn dialogue with the military regime but so far there had been no deal.
“I am not having secret talks. I am telling the whole world what I am doing. We have not reached a deal because we have made it clear that no deal which undermined the democratic aspirations of the people of Pakistan was acceptable to the party,” she said.“We want fair and free elections, but if about 30 per cent of voters are missing from the electoral lists and 26 per cent are fake and duplicate names you cannot expect the elections to be fair,” she added.
She also objected to the creation of a large number of unnecessary polling stations and alleged that someone closely related to Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi was doctoring the electoral lists sitting in a safe house in Islamabad.
She said the party had written to the EC seeking an explanation, but so far it had not responded.
“When we asked for the electronic lists of voters, we were told the EC was not obliged under the Constitution to do so. We received the same answer when we asked them to put the voters’ names on the web page,” she added.
Explaining the PPP’s position vis-à-vis the MMA, she said that in the first place the two parties were ideologically poles apart and, secondly if one went by how the religious alliance earlier ditched the opposition parties and joined hands with the ruling party to get the 17th Amendment passed which allowed Gen Musharraf the needed constitutional cover to continue to rule in uniform.
“They are now sharing power with the government. So we think they cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hound. They should first resign and then we might re-consider our decision not to join the APDM.
“This is how we feel, but may be the MMA would not repeat what it did in 2002 and instead this time it would join the forces of democracy, so we are prepared to give them the benefit of doubt, but still it is not the time for us to go and sit with them in a grand alliance,” she contended.
She condoled the deaths of so many people in the Lal Masjid commando operation and also prayed for the army personnel who lost their lives while fighting the extremists.
She demanded an inquiry either by the Supreme Court or by a parliamentary committee to find out how so many militants gathered at the site with so many weapons right under the nose of the intelligence agencies.
She also wanted to know who allowed the two cleric brothers to occupy illegally the government land and asked: “Who had helped the late Ghazi to be released when he was earlier arrested for harbouring terrorists and having in his possession illegal arms?”