Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the government will accept a parliamentary panel’s decision on the authenticity of an alleged memo that had sought U.S. help to stave off a feared military coup in Pakistan, setting the stage for a fresh confrontation with the Supreme Court that is also investigating the scandal.
In his first interview since the military and the judiciary began pressuring the government over the alleged memo after it was made public last year, Mr. Zardari said both the Supreme Court and Parliamentary Committee on National Security were looking into the issue but in his view, parliament was sovereign.
“Let both decisions come. In my view, parliament is sovereign,” he said in the interview with Geo News channel.
The apex court has formed a judicial commission and tasked it to probe the Memogate scandal in a month. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has indicated in his remarks in court that he believes the Supreme Court is better placed to investigate a matter like the Memogate scandal.
Mr. Zardari has refused so far to file a statement with his views on the scandal in the apex court. He said “unnecessary publicity” had been given to the memo made public by Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz.
However, the government had taken no action so far against Mr. Ijaz because that would not have been in the interests of the country, he said.
The President rejected the possibility of a clash between various state institutions, saying the government had no conflict with the military or the judiciary.
“These are part of evolution. You think this is a fight, I believe this is part of evolution. This fight will evolve and it will simmer down,” he said in excerpts of the interview aired by the channel.
“We have no war with the court, why should we have a fight with the army?” Mr. Zardari asked.
Asked about Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s statement in Parliament that had criticised the military for failing to detect Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan for several years, Mr. Zardari said the premier was pointing the finger of blame at the regime of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
“It is not fair for me to do deliberation and he (Gilani) should be asked about (the remarks). He said Osama was here for seven years, there should be accountability for that. He was talking about Pervez Musharraf. Why is that being linked to the army?” Mr. Zardari asked.
The President contended that Mr. Gilani was a “powerful” minister who had the right to speak out about the problems he or the government may be facing, including differences with any institution.
Replying to a question about Mr. Gilani’s description of the army as a “state within a state”, Mr. Zardari said: “He is a powerful Prime Minister. He has all the powers, he does not feel (he is) under anybody. If there is some (matter) which is annoying him, he has the right to take a position, and he has taken a position.”
Asked about the three-year extension that was given to army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Mr. Zardari said this was now a “question in history”.
In response to another question on why the Pakistan People’s Party-led government had not put Mr. Musharraf on trial, Mr. Zardari said, “The trial of Pervez Musharraf would have had an impact on the morale of the military. I did not want to demoralise our military. The institution would have been demoralised if Musharraf’s trial was done.”
On the question of holding an early general election, the President said, “We are ready to talk to the opposition on every subject.”