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Musharraf's uniform a secondary issue: Altaf

September 08, 2004

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PESHAWAR, Sept 7: Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain has said that whether President Gen Pervez Musharraf remains in uniform or decides to doff it is a secondary issue because every government in Pakistan has sought protection of the military uniform.

Speaking at the Peshawar Press Club's 'Meet the Press' programme here on Tuesday, he said the issue of uniform would be there as long as a people's government was not established in the country. Every ruler in the past had sought the help of the 'uniform' and compromised on principles, he added.

He said that former prime ministers, including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, had formed their governments with the help of the 'uniform'. The Jamaat-i-Islami supported Gen Ziaul Haq, who also was in uniform, for 11 long years, but now JI chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed was opposing a president in uniform to hoodwink the nation.

Mr Hussain demanded that the NWFP be renamed because the present name did not reflect the identity, culture and psyche of its people who had been demanding the change of name since the inception of Pakistan.

He was of the opinion that if the NWFP was not renamed as Pukhtoonkhwa or Pukhtoonistan or whatever its people wanted, they (the people of the province) might resort to other means to have a name of their choice.

The MQM chief said the federation of Pakistan must give equal rights to all its federating units. Use of brute force, he added, would not keep the country intact. Paying rich tribute to late Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, he said that Bacha Khan was a genuine leader who had given a sense of freedom and independence to his people and launched a protracted but non-violent struggle against foreign rule.

He said the name NWFP was a remnant of the colonial era and, therefore, must be changed. If the rulers were reluctant to rename the NWFP, they should change the names of other provinces, he added.

Referring to 9/11, he said this single event had brought about profound changes in geo-politics. "Friends have become foes and foes have turned friends." In Pakistan, the rulers abandoned the Taliban and the Jihadi groups and joined hands with the United States and its other allies to protect Pakistan's interests in this part of the world.

He said his party had joined the government in order to eradicate the decade-old backwardness and poverty and to steer the country out of a crisis which was posing a threat to its existence.

The MQM was the only political party, Mr Hussain said, which represented the middle-class of Pakistan and it had survived many operations since its formation in 1984. He denied that the MQM had any plan for carving out a Jinnahpur out of Pakistan or that it was a separatist organization which wanted to dismember the country.

He said that the forefathers of the people in the MQM had sacrificed their lives for Pakistan. "Our people are residents of the province of Sindh and this is now their only identity," he added.