M A I N   N E W S

Pak showdown imminent
‘Memogate’ parallel probes: Zardari will accept only House panel verdict
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

Prez breaks silence

n In an interview to a TV channel, Zardari hinted at early elections and said polls could be held in October this year
n He denied any conflict with the military or judiciary, saying he had no problem with Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari today broke his silence on ‘Memogate’ swirling around his government saying he would only accept the verdict of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, heavily loaded with members of the ruling coalition, which is looking into the issue.

The assertion, in a late evening telecast on Geo TV, placed him in the eye of a fresh political storm as it implied that he had no confidence in the Judicial Commission set up by the Supreme Court to look into the scandal.

The 17-member parliamentary panel that has also initiated a parallel probe into the scandal has 12 members from the ruling coalition and only five from the opposition PML-N. There is no tradition in Pakistani politics of lawmakers taking an independent position in defiance of the party line.

Both the army and the judiciary had taken a serious view of the alleged memo, by which the civilian government had sought help from the United States to foil a military coup believed imminent after the government criticised the army for not being alert enough to the presence of Osama Bin Laden under its very nose. Zardari is accused of offering to purge the present military leadership and allowing the US to monitor Pakistan’s nuclear assets. He has denied the allegations.

Although Zardari said in the course of the interview “we have no war with the court, why should we have a war with the army”, his statement that he deemed Parliament to be supreme and not the judiciary, set the stage for a fresh confrontation with the Supreme Court.

The Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had indicated in open court that he believed the Supreme Court to be better placed to inquire into a case like Memogate. President Zardari has so far refused to file any statement to the Judicial Commission, which had called upon him to submit his views in writing.

Zardari has defied notices issued by the SC and the Judicial Commission claiming he enjoys immunity from any court proceedings. The government has also reaffirmed it would not implement court directives to write to Swiss authorities seeking reopening of money laundering cases against the President.

President Zardari said he had allowed safe exit to former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf, spurning demands for his trial because it could have a demoralising effect on the army. He, however, did not rule out such possibility today, stating that if he were to do it now, the parliament would have the final word.

Referring to criticism that Prime Minister Gilani had insinuated ISI’s complicity while questioning who could have issued a visa to Osama bin Laden, the President said that Gilani had alluded to Musharraf. Zardari insisted that Gilani enjoyed full powers of chief executive and denied any interference in government’s functioning.

On the court’s directive for writing a letter to Swiss authorities, Zardari said it was the party’s decision not to send the letter because it believed that such a letter would be tantamount to the trial of Benazir Bhutto’s grave. He said he would not be President after some period and anyone who wanted to try him was free to do that then.

Interviewed by Hamid Mir, Zardari also confirmed that the general election could be held in October this year, adding that he was ready to hold talks with Nawaz Sharif on all issues, including his demand for early elections.





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