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22 April 2024

Charges against Zardari politically motivated: PM

By Reuters

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, in an interview broadcast on Saturday, said corruption charges against Pakistan's president were "politically motivated" and that the president had immunity as head of state. 

In the wide-ranging interview with Al Jazeera television, he also criticised U.S. drone attacks on militants near the Afghan border as counterproductive and said Pakistan never authorised them. 

Pakistan, he said, backed any Afghan-led peace plan to  establish peace in the neighbouring country and in no way supported Taliban insurgents. 

Gilani's statements were aired on the eve of a hearing at which the premier faces indictment for contempt of court over his refusal to request the reopening of corruption cases against his party boss, President Asif Ali Zardari. 

"There had been a lot of cases against him, and they were all politically motivated," Gilani said, referring to Zardari. 

"He has got immunity. And he has not got immunity only in Pakistan, he has transnational immunity, even all over the world." 

Asked if he would rather resign for the sake of the president, Gilani said if convicted of contempt, he would automatically lose office, so there was no need for him to quit. 

"There's no need to step down," he said. "If I'm convicted, then I'm not supposed to be a member of the parliament." 

In the interview, Gilani said authorities in Islamabad gave no approval for U.S. drone strikes. 

"I want to inform you that we did not allow or give permission to fly drones from Pakistan," he said. 

"Number two, drones are counterproductive. And we had discussed thoroughly with the U.S. administration that we at times make a lot of efforts to very successfully isolate militants from the local tribes." 

Drone attacks generated negative reaction, he said, with  tribesmen in areas bordering Afghanistan. 

"Then the local tribes and the militants, they get united again," he said. "They make our jobs extremely difficult. Then there is less political space for us." 

Gilani also said he had "good relations" with the military "at the moment". That was a reference to tensions pitting the  civilian government against the military over a memo sent to the Pentagon seeking U.S. help in preventing a feared military coup after the U.S. commando raid in Pakistan that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 

Asked about the future of Afghanistan, Gilani said Pakistan would support any Afghan-led peace initiative and did not back the Afghan Taliban to take over. 

"We are not supporting them. It's not our job. Why should we support them?" 

Gilani also said that regional rivals India and Pakistan -- which have fought three wars and countless skirmishes since their partition in 1947 -- could not afford more conflict and were ready to discuss the issues that have long hampered the normalisation of relations. 

"We have agreed to discuss all our core issues, including the issue of Kashmir," he said, referring to the region claimed in full and ruled in part by the two neighbours. Kashmir was at the heart of two of the three Pakistan-India wars.