17th Amendment to go in December, says Zardari

President Asif Ali Zardari said on Friday the 17th Constitutional amendment would be done away with during December. “We wanted to abolish the 17th amendment from the day one, but we wanted to do it through unanimous decision, as the 1973 Constitution was also approved unanimously,” the President said in an interview with a private television channel.
During the interview, the President said he had indemnity and his eligibility could not be challenged in any court. “According to our legal team, the President has indemnity and its eligibility cannot be challenged now,” President Zardari said. About challenging his eligibility as President, he said, his eligibility, as candidate for the President was not even challenged by his opponent candidates at the time of election.
The President said Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui (Retd) and Mushahid Hussain Syed did not challenge his eligibility before the election process. President Zardari said that Pakistan People’s Party was always targeted even in the tenure of former President Pervez Musharraf and before. He said the struggle by the PPP leaders to reach the Presidency from the chains (from jail) continued.
Commenting on the Balochistan package, the President said it was a wonderful start for the development of the province, adding that complaints from some quarters could be there. Replying to a question about former President Musharraf, he said: “Let the court decide about him (Musharraf).”
Answering a question about the investigation into the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, he said the police, FIA, and other departments were investigating the issue and the culprits would get punishment. About war against terrorism, President Zardari said the failure of “peace deals” led to military operation in Swat and Waziristan.
President Zardari said the United States was thinking to review its policy on drone attacks, which would enable Pakistan to secure the drone technology and launch such attacks on its own. Replying to a question about the US-Taliban negotiations, he said: “We are getting this news through media and Pakistan was not on board (on this issue).”
He said: “The war against terrorism is now being considered in Pakistan as its own war.” About the alleged presence of Mullah Umar in Karachi, Quetta or another city of Pakistan, the President said the US had not provided any evidence to Pakistan in this regard.
Replying to another question, the President said judges, witnesses and lawyers used to come from Rawalpindi to Attock Jail for hearing of the cases filed against him. He said: “All those prisoners even serving life imprisonment along with me in the jail, released before me.”
About the relations among coalition partners, the President said ups and downs as well as the difference of opinion among the coalition partners was part of democracy, adding: “However, we want to take along all our allies, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP).” About the name of Pakhtoonkhawah for the NWFP, President Zardari said the nation would soon hear a good news in this regard.
President Zardari said he was thankful to Mian Nawaz Sharif, who had talked about stopping the way of non-democratic forces. Zardari said: “I and Nawaz Sharif, both want to strengthen the democratic process in the country.” On the issue of reinstatement of judiciary, the President said: “If the judiciary has been restored on the public pressure then I am also part of the masses.”
President Zardari said he wanted the restoration of judiciary as a whole and not the reinstatement Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry alone. Commenting on the reinstatement of judiciary, the President said: “We are with the choice and voice of the people.” Replying to another question about corruption charges against the government, the President said with the Public Accounts Committee, led by the leader of opposition and in presence of the independent judiciary, everything would be open and clear and the people would know the facts.
About media criticism, President Zardari said with the influence of public relations companies and other factors, even the foreign media was not completely independent and neutral. Pakistani media would grow with the passage of time, he added.
Referring to criticism in the media, the President said: “We will exhibit tolerance in this regard.” Regarding reservations of the MQM about the future of the local governments, the President said final decision in this regard would be taken by the Prime Minister and the four chief ministers.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2009