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I am not PM candidate, says Zardari
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | February 20, 2008 23:29 IST
Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday ruled out his becoming the prime minister of Pakistan and said a senior leader from the Pakistan Peoples' Party would be chosen to head the new government.
"Rest assured, I will not be candidate for prime minister. We will choose (a candidate) from our senior leadership," Zardari said after chairing a meeting of the PPP's central executive committee.
"We are the largest political party in the (National Assembly), and would have to be called upon to for the government. Once they call up on us, we will reveal (the prime ministerial candidate)," he said.
Fifty-two-year-old Zardari, who is co-chairman of the PPP, said efforts would be made to form a national government and the new parliament would decide the future of President Pervez Musharraf [Images].
The PPP won 87 seats in the general elections while former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N got 66 seats.
Asked what sort of relationship the PPP intended to have with Musharraf, Zardari said, "I have said during our campaign that we will strengthen parliament and the parliamentary form of government. The parliament will decide which president it can work with and which president it can't work with".
Zardari evaded a direct reply on being asked if a government with Musharraf was better than one without the President.
"The whole situation is, I think, the world today has heard the message of the people of Pakistan. I think all democratic forces of the world stand with the people of Pakistan in democracy," he said.
Zardari said he had already established contacts with leaders of the All Parties Democratic Movement, which had boycotted the polls, and would meet Sharif on Thursday to discuss politics and issues of mutual concern.
"We are going to find solutions to the problems of Pakistan," he said, when asked about the agenda of his meeting with Sharif, whose party has emerged as the second largest group in the National Assembly.
The PPP is committed to forming a government of national consensus that includes even forces which boycotted the polls, Zardari said.
"We have said from the beginning that we are going to make a government of national consensus, we are still on that position. We are going to take all the political forces (along with us)," he said.
In this regard, Zardari said he had spoken to APDM leaders Imran Khan [Images] and Mehmood Khan Achakzai.
Zardari reiterated that any government led by the PPP would pass a resolution seeking a United Nations-led probe into the assassination of his wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto [Images].
"We want a resolution for (a UN inquiry into Bhutto's killing). We are not prepared to budge on that. I got a letter from the UN that they will only consider (the demand for a probe) if the country or government asks for it," he said.
"God willing, we intend to make government to get justice for (Bhutto) and I am not looking for revenge. We will take revenge by changing the establishment and not by targeting individuals".
He also demanded that the government should free all judges and lawyers detained during 2007's emergency.
Zardari side-stepped questions on the tricky issue of reinstating the deposed judges, a key demand of the PML-N that may come in the way of Nawaz Sharif's party joining hands with the PPP to form a coalition government.
He said he wanted 'autonomy for the judiciary' and the demand for reinstating the judges was only 'part of the issue'. He added, "The greater issue is (whether) the judiciary is independent".
Zardari said despite the reservations of some PPP leaders from Sindh, he wanted to include the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in efforts to form a government in the southern province and at the Centre.
"We want to make a government with the MQM. If I am talking of politics of national consensus, I cannot exclude the MQM," he said.