Excerpts from President Zardari’s interview with Herald

In the Dawn of October 7, 2010, excerpts from President Zardari’s interview to the Herald have been published. The October edition of Herald hit newsstands yesterday. What the President has said is something we as critical supporters of the party have been saying for a long time. He has been very diplomatic in his answers and has very much identified the threats that have been created by the self righteous and rightist forces in the country.

The excerpts are represented below with important points highlighted:

KARACHI, Oct 6: President Asif Ali Zardari has hit out at the media for unnecessarily raising the issue of civil-military disconnect in flood management when the natural disaster had hit large parts of the country during the past few weeks. In fact, in his view, if there is a disconnect it is “between the media, the people and the pseudo-intellectuals”.

In an exclusive interview to the Herald, President Zardari equated today’s Pakistani media to “a dragon that needs to be fed everyday”. And according to him, “the best thing is to have a nice juicy democratic government which can’t even bite back.” The interview carried in the magazine’s October issue, which hit the stand across Pakistan on Tuesday, covers a wide range of topics, including the president’s response to rumours of change of government and it not completing the five-year term. The president blamed the media and some vested interests for carrying out this “negative campaign”.

When asked if local representatives had been on the ground, the efforts to manage and mitigate such a huge disaster, caused by the flood, would have been more effective, President Zardari said that his chief minister and irrigation minister were literally sleeping on dykes in Dadu. “If the ruling party had not been working in Sukkur or in Jacobabad, do you think these people would have been alive today?” He then held the media responsible for raising the issue of civil-military disconnect in flood management.

“There is a disconnect between the media, the people and the pseudo intellectuals,” he said. In the same breath, he referred to the issue of degrees and said, “all of a sudden the parliamentarians’ degrees have become important when the law requiring them does not exist. When the law existed, nobody’s degrees were challenged. When the law does not exist, not having a degree has become an offence retrospectively.” Replying to another question about rumours of dissolution of the government, President Zardari said, “that is a negative campaign to weaken our stance and democracy. There are interest groups. One of the very large media interest group has an 800 crore rupee liability and does not want to pay it. Pakistan People’s Party and the political powers of the day cannot afford that any institution or individual or class of media dictate to them — that tomorrow’s prime minister will be made by them.” Asked why there was a perception that the military is not part of the government, President Zardari said: “I don’t think the military can even step out without the government’s permission.” “Who pays the military, for the fuel they use, for the men flying helicopters? Who bought them these helicopters?” he said in the interview conducted in the second half of September and published in the magazine’s October issue that hit the newsstands across Pakistan on Tuesday.

“Sixteen of (these helicopters) were given free to me last year by the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi. Some [of them] are at the army’s disposal.” Discussing the army’s role in flood relief and rehabilitation, Mr Zaradri said: “The army is one of (the government’s) sectors. Anywhere in the world (when) there is a catastrophe the marines are called in.” He said the democratic representatives of the people never shied away from helping the flood-hit people.

He called the military’s anti-Taliban campaigns in Swat and Waziristan “democratic dividends” and said: “We go in and fight where the army has never fought before in Waziristan. These are all democratic dividends. How come they did not do this two years before we did? If they are so powerful, why didn’t they do it earlier?” He also remarked that the rightwing elements in society had got together to destabilise the government.

“There is a challenge by the rightist forces to democracy. Democracy per se does not suit the rightists. And these forces get together and then there are interest groups. Pakistan People’s Party and the political powers of the day cannot afford that any institution or individual or class of media dictate to them that tomorrow’s prime minister will be made by them.”



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