LAHORE, Oct 19: Former president Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari has called for the formation of a national government of political consensus to hold the upcoming general elections peacefully.

Addressing a press conference at Leghari House on Raiwind Road on Friday, Mr Leghari, also a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML), said the general elections were scheduled for 2008 but public meetings and rallies were not possible amid violence, extremism and suicide bombing. The law and order situation was a major hurdle in holding of elections, he said, adding that no government was capable of providing security to all political leaders in the present circumstances. He said top leaders could afford bullet-proof vehicles but the poor could be target of violence as no place was safe for electioneering from Balochistan to Waziristan and Quetta to Lahore.

“No political party can work with peace of mind under the present circumstances,” he said.

The former president said the government should take initiative and invite all political parties represented in the National Assembly to form a national government with consensus to hold general elections. He said all political parties should consider his proposal as it was the only way to restore democracy in the country.

He said the tenure of the proposed national government could be up to one year and it should not necessarily be headed by retired judges or bureaucrats.

On a statement by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairperson Benazir Bhutto that those who had left the party would not be taken back, he said he had resigned from the party the day he had been sworn as the president of Pakistan. He said even though the constitution allowed him to remain in political party, he decided to resign from the PPP because he thought the president should represent the entire country instead of any political party.

He said the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan had remained in the PML during his tenure as president.

He said Pakistan was literally in the eye of the storm because of occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by US troops. The government was forced to take military action in Waziristan due to foreign militants’ presence there. An understanding with the tribes was a right strategy. Even Americans were reaching an understanding in Iraq like our government.

He said violence, extremism and terrorism were result of pursuing US policies by the government. He also considered violence and extremism against national interest and wanted it to end. He said Pakistan had been a target of violence long before 9/11.

He said Ms Bhutto should thank God for her safety because there was no defence against suicide bombing. He said that only poor citizens, PPP workers and police officials died in the bombing but no PPP leaders bothered to visit the hospitals for inquiring about the workers.

Mr Leghari opposed the National Reconciliation Ordinance. He said he had proposed national reconciliation a month ago but amnesty for corruption looked strange. He said amnesty could not be justified if army officers, bureaucrats and politicians who had plundered national resources did not return the money stolen by them. He said the ordinance had been challenged in the Supreme Court and its fate depended on its verdict.

He said corruption was one of the reasons for which he had dismissed the Ms Bhutto’s government in 1996 and the Supreme Court had upheld his decision. He said an accountability commission constituted by him had found corruption of $1.5 billion by Ms Bhutto. Evidence of corruption of Nawaz Sharif was also collected but Saifur Rehman destroyed evidence against him.

He said Gen Pervez Musharraf had been elected president and he hoped that the Supreme Court would also endorse his election.

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