OKARA, Dec 18: Defence Minister Rao Sikandar Iqbal said on Saturday President Gen Pervez Musharraf wanted to improve political conditions in the country, which could only be possible by giving relief to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

He was talking to reporters at his Mazharabad Farms, about 20 kilometres from Okara, where he had invited ambassadors and high commissioners of over 20 countries

He said the president was happy about the release of Asif Ali Zardari as a result of a court decision. "This is a good gesture and I hope that the rest will follow," he said.

When asked whether he meant the release of PML-N acting president Javed Hashmi, he said: "Yes, the president will be very happy if he is released by court," he said.

Rao Sikandar said Ms Bhutto had gone out of the country on her own will and not sent by the president. "Sherpao (Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan) was facing cases and he was out of the country. But he returned home to face courts, which cleared him of all charges. I advise Ms Bhutto also to return and face courts and she is likely to get a relief from the courts," he said.

When asked whether there was any chance of the return of Nawaz Sharif, the defence minister said he and Ms Bhutto should face courts and they would get a relief from there.

Answering a question about the MMA movement against the government, he said it could not materialize the threat (to oust the government) because it was not in a position to do so. "Let them (the MMA) try. They cannot launch a movement. The president is tackling all the national affairs with sagacity," he said.

When asked about the recently reported US and Israeli offers to India to provide it with more war machinery, the minister claimed Pakistan was in very safe hands.

He said the country's image in the world had improved because of the policies of President Musharraf. "His policy is to get closer to other nations and we are following in his footsteps," he said when asked whether his reception for the diplomats would improve the country's image.

MENON: Indian High Commissioner Shiv Shankar Menon said that so far Pakistan and India had suggested 98 steps for the normalization of relations between them and the time had come to start implementing them.

Mr Menon said relations between the two countries had certainly improved a lot and India would like to resolve all issues including that of Kashmir through peaceful means.

He said India had moved the second lot of its troops from Occupied Kashmir a few days ago. But the withdrawal of its troops depended on the operational needs (in the held Kashmir).

"India has already said that it is ready to take risks for peace. And in the larger context, we will do everything to carry the dialogue process forward," he said.

The high commissioner said both the countries had adopted different measures like making travel and contact easier, so that "we can become good neighbours and friends."

Replying to a question on the Baglihar Dam, he said India had given its technical data to Pakistan three days ago. He hoped that Pakistan would study the data and return to India for talks for which "we are ready."

Mr Menon sounded optimistic about the normalization of relations between the two countries. People of both the sides certainly wanted improvement in their relations, He said.

He said he was delighted to visit the farms of the defence minister. "We are seeing real Pakistan away from cities," he said.

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