ISLAMABAD, May 22: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Thursday launched a tirade against President Pervez Musharraf with party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari declaring him a stumbling block in the way of smooth-sailing towards democracy and a party spokesman announcing that they will clip the presidential powers, come what may.
Reacting to reports in media that President Musharraf might react strongly if the coalition government tried his powers or made an attempt to impeach him through a proposed constitutional package, PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Asif Zardari was keen on winning and retaining the trust and confidence of the people of Pakistan, and not of any individual.
Mr Zardari, in an interview with Press Trust of India news agency, admitted that he was under tremendous pressure to oust President Musharraf from his office. The public, Mr Zardari said, was telling the PPP that “we don’t want bread, we don’t want electricity, but we want him (Mr Musharraf) out.”
Earlier, Mr Zardari had been criticising the president in vague terms, and it was for the first time since the Feb 18 general elections that he openly hit out at Gen (retd) Musharraf. Political experts believe that Mr Zardari has taken this new stance after realising that the graph of his party’s popularity is sliding down due to a general perception that the PPP has reached an underhand deal with the president on certain issues, particularly on the issue of reinstatement of the deposed judges. They believe that this apparent shift in Mr Zardari’s stance will help him clarify his position and improve his image in the eyes of the general public.
Mr Zardari told the PTI that President Musharraf was a “relic of the past” standing between the people of Pakistan and democracy and there was tremendous pressure on the new government to ensure his ouster. He said that although Musharraf still held considerable powers, the PPP-led coalition had to abide by the wishes of the people who wanted the military ruler to leave his post.
“He (Musharraf) has taken off his uniform thanks to the dialogue by my wife (Benazir Bhutto) and the world pressure,” Mr Zardari said, adding: “But that doesn’t make him (Musharraf) into a democrat or a civilian president. That doesn’t mean that his presidency is legal. I have a tremendous amount of pressure from the people of Pakistan.”
Mr Zardari said that the PPP was working to “come up with a live-able formula” for ushering in full-fledged democracy because “after all that has happened, you cannot have an unelected and non-democratic president”.
The PPP co-chairman also admitted that the people did not like his policy of national reconciliation. “For two months, I have been trying to do a whitewash or whatever you may call it to dialogue with the people of Pakistan and my party. That okay, let’s have national reconciliation, but people are not willing to accept my position on that,” he said.
Mr Zardari said the “bottom-line” of all this was that the people wanted Musharraf to go. “And I am the servant of the people, not the master of the people.”
In a statement issued on Thursday, PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar expressed the party’s determination to “correct the imbalance of power between the Presidency and the Parliament House in accordance with the Charter of Democracy and recognised democratic principles, no matter whether it pleased or annoyed anyone.”
Mr Babar was of the view that through deliberate media leaks some vested interests were seeking to browbeat the political parties into submission and dissuade them from restoring parliament’s supremacy through appropriate constitutional amendments. These vested interests were doomed to be frustrated in their designs to pressurise the coalition government into giving up the proposed constitutional changes to make the parliament genuinely supreme, the PPP spokesperson said.