KARACHI: PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari said on Wednesday that elections in the country would be held after the incumbent coalition government implements electoral reforms and amends the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) laws.
“We have to change laws and improve them and then go to elections. Whether it takes 3 or 4 months, we have to work on implementation of policies and improving the electoral process,” Zardari said at a press conference in Karachi.
He said he had consulted Mian Nawaz Sharif and “made him understand that as soon as our reforms and low-hanging fruit targets are complete [we can go to polls]”.
The former president said the coalition government had “no issue” with voting rights and representation for overseas Pakistani, adding that a number of seats could be specified for them after discussions.
In response to a question about Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s interview in which he said the possibility of holding elections before November could not be ruled out, Zardari said the PML-N leader had his own thoughts and was bound to listen to his party’s directives.
“The PML-N decided with me that until electoral reforms were brought, there would be no [talk] about the new army chief’s appointment.” Once the electoral reforms had been introduced and the economic situation had improved and the parliament believed it was time to go for elections, polls could then be held, he added.
The army was “apolitical” for the first time, he said, asking whether the situation warranted saluting Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa or “fighting” with him.
Talking about the no-confidence vote that led to the ouster of former prime minister Imran Khan, Zardari said it was “good to know that the army can remain neutral”. He expressed the hope that the army would continue to be “apolitical” and any problems that arose could be solved by national representatives.
When asked about former ISI chief and incumbent Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, Zardari replied, “That poor man has been sidelined.”
Talking about the judiciary, which has been criticised by PTI chairman Imran, he said he had never run a campaign against them. “[Former military ruler] Pervez Musharraf kept me in jail for five years but we did not attack his house and I have said internationally, I want to see Musharraf alive. I think we should let the institution do its work and help them.”
He alleged that the bureaucracy had been destroyed during the PTI government’s tenure and relations with other countries were “not even present”, which the incumbent government would try to improve.
He slammed Imran for labelling his opponents as Mir Jafars and Mir Sadiqs. “If anyone can run the country, it is us, not him. His own friends left him because they (PTI) could not fulfil their political commitments.”
Zardari, while responding to a question, said he had not read the cable that Imran claimed contained proof of a “foreign conspiracy” to oust him.
“I do not believe any [US] State Department official is irresponsible enough to [say] what you have read out to me. There is no such thing. He (Imran) has created a political myth. What need does the US have [to interfere]?”
The former president said Pakistan needed to correct its policies and portray itself as a safe haven so the international community would consider it as a partner.
Elaborating on the issues facing the economy, the former president said oil was expensive which was why the country would hold a dialogue. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had good relations with Saudi Arabia’s ruling family, he noted.
Zardari said the country would keep facing difficulties until the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme was brought back on track.
He said he had a lot of “out-of-the-box thought processes”, including about the State Life Insurance Corporation. “It is an investment of more than Rs100 billion. Give 26 per cent of it to a business house with a good track record and float 26pc [of its shares] in the market. You will get at least Rs8 to 10bn.”
In addition, all electricity power lines should be privatised, he said. He added that he wanted businesses to consult with the PPP, which would provide out-of-the-box solutions.
He claimed that overseas Pakistanis had been “led astray” by the previous government and they had no idea about the prevailing heat and inflation in the country. In response to a question, Zardari said he had advised Imran to work on an economic charter but the then “selected” prime minister did not understand and the rupee was weakened.