Posted by: Administrator | 19 January, 2008

President with Business Plus

Q & A with Business Plus

12 July 2006

Question: I feel honoured to have the President of Pakistan with us in this special edition of Business Plus. Mr. President first of all I congratulate you for your decision that facilitated the release of several hundred women languishing in prisons for long. Many of us now think after watching these women on TV screens that the government should have taken this decision much earlier. I think it is a good decision sir.

Answer: Thank you very much I would like to respond by saying that much more decision coming in the coming months and also to assure all women that I am on their side. And we will make sure that there is progress on all women issues.

Question: Mr. President you have once idealized Attaturk as leader who inspired you but which one is the country in the world which you would like to idealize for Pakistan as a role model, or may be some books or some figures sir?

Answer: Among the Muslim countries it is Malaysia which is a progressive society and their economy is doing very well. Its an example of progressive Islamic society and I think that is what we need to emulate in Pakistan.

As far as reading is concerned, I don’t have much time for that therefore I only go through the newspapers and important magazines especially Indian magazines as to what they are saying about us. Some of the headlines are marked by the staff. My wife contributes a lot. I don’t have much time left for reading books after the official work.

Question: Since you have mentioned about your hectic schedule. We have been hearing that you yourself are in the process of writing a book. An autobiography, would you like to share with us or is it too soon that I am putting up this question to you?

Answer: It’s out in the open. But I would not like to say anything about it other than, yes I have written an autobiography it will be out in the market in September. It contains everything absolutely – my comments and my thoughts concerning Pakistan.

Question: Just you have mentioned about Malaysia, when talk about amenities very few people avail them in Pakistan, including the electricity, irrespective of GDP figures how come the ordinary man who is suffering can have his lot improved, as our leaders kept promising broad, clothing etc for years, but a middle man is still suffering?

Answer: Whatever I say I deliver on it. People will get electricity, gas, water etc. etc. But this is a country of 150 million people which had very limited resources. We are now in a much better shape and providing these basic amenities to the people.

Let’s take electricity for example. From 1988 to 1999 only about 1200 to 1300 villages were being electrified. Last year, 13500 villages were provided electricity while this year some 15,000 villages will be provided electricity. By December 2007, every village having ten or more houses will get the power supply although some remote areas in NWFP and Balochistan may not get electricity by that time.

This is the magnitude of the progress. We should look at the positive side. Similarly I have promised to provide safe drinking water and the work is going on. Our economy has stabilized and doing very well. Macro economic indicators are positive. Now our efforts are aimed at passing on the benefits of economic upsurge to the common people. As the economy stabilized people will automatically get fruits of development.

Now our focus is in three directions – poverty alleviation, unemployment control and inflation control. Secondly we should provide the facilities that have been promised – electricity, gas and safe drinking water.

We are working to provide safe drinking water down to Union level and the situation will gradually improve. Similarly we are targeting to provide piped gas and electricity to every at least every Tehsil Headquarters with the exception of a few. At other places we are making alternative arrangements.

We are also focusing on qualitative improvement in human resources, health and education. There is definitely and impact of government’s efforts at the grassroots level. But there is a lot to be done. Poverty and unemployment ratio have shown decline that has also been noted by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. But if there is still 25 percent poverty, it is bad. One out of four is poor and one should never say that poverty has been eliminated.

Although it has come down from 33 percent to 25 percent which is a success of the government. But there are pessimists who continue to criticize and do not see the progress. No one has a magic wand. There is poverty and unemployment even in the United States. How can I claim to end poverty from Pakistan. But I promise to lower it further. The UN has the target to bring it below 15 percent by the year 2015. We will meet this target ahead of cut off date.

Question: Indeed Mr. President people do have their faith on the long term planning as far as the major dams are concerned, but the way we have had power crisis and later else where wherein the federal government had to intervene one need to ask whether we have some short term objectives as well?

Answer: I am thinking of addressing the nation also to put things in order. Unfortunately the people do not understand the situation. First we need to know what is the problem. The problem is of development which is so rapid that we should be proud of it.

In three years the GDP growth has remained 7.5 percent. Lets leave aside tractors, motorcycles, cars etc and talk of just electricity. There has been 1000 per cent increase in the sale of air conditioners; new industries are being set up. Therefore the demand is rising for gas and electricity. We are facing electricity shortage because of rapid economic development. We have to take steps to meet the demand. (About lesser gas demand in the country in 2002): During my visit to Iran I held talks with Iranian President Mr. Khatmi on the proposed gas pipeline project. I told him that unless India comes on board, Pakistan does not have the market (demand for gas).

Today, the economy has started to boom, now I am telling them (Iran) that even if there is no trilateral arrangement (with India), we need gas. So it is a developmental fallout.

There is traffic choke-up, even in Islamabad. It is because there is a development, people are buying cars. The sale has gone up from 33,000 a year to over 200,000. So we have to meet the challenges of posed by development. Now we are looking at the solutions.

I am taking personal interest to meet the demand by following procedures but on the fast-track basis. My target is December 2007 and early 2008. We are looking at gas and power projects that have immediate responses.

In the mid-term, from 2008 to 2012 onward, we are looking at hydroelectricity, gas, coal, alternate (winds, sun and nuclear).

We want to avoid oil, as it is the most expensive input for producing electricity. Even we can import coal, it is very cheap, we are going for that in the mid-term.

In the long-term, we have to built dams. Therefore, we have launched Bhasha dam and we are also working on other such large water reservoirs. This is the strategy. Now load-shedding, I have asked Prime Minister to take the nation into confidence about the gap in supply and demand. The nation should know that the problem is due to rapid development and that the government is making all efforts to meet the demand. Tell the nation that it cannot be done overnight. They should show patience as the government would be able to meet this challenge in a year and a half time. One should come upfront. I am coming upfront and saying to the nation, give us time, we have a short-term, mid-term and long-term strategy which we will implement.

There has been manifold increase in demand in big cities. In cities like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, multi-storeyed buildings have replaced single-storey houses and there are hundred air conditioners where there used by one. So there has been tremendous load on KESE and other power networks but it is a fallout of development.

Question: Stock markets face ups and downs all over the world, but what was the reason that there have been series of allegations and counter allegations in the case of the crashes in the stock markets:

Answer: All the stock exchanges in the world are linked, there is an integration of all the stock markets in the world. I have reviewed the entire situation, especially, when our stock market started to go up – we do make comparison of our stock market with those of the region and the developing world. From the review of the stock market from 2000 onward, some prominent developments emerged. There is a relationship throughout between the country’s stock market and those of the region as it goes up and down with them.

But in the last year, our (stock market) graph suddenly went up while those of others did not. So there is some issue which is related only to our stock exchange and not to all others. So we needed to look at it and, therefore, the government immediately set up a committee that comprises people, whose names I would not like to mention who have always been anti-government, it is their report, which has been published and is available. The report did not blame the government (for the crash). Mr. Tariq Hassan, the chairman of the SECP, is now making hue and cry over it. It is the responsibility of the SECP to oversee that the stock exchanges behave in a regulated pattern. What did he do, why did this happen and this particularly only to Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE). Why did he allow this to happen. He himself is to blame and nobody else. All that happens or does not happen in that organization, it is his responsibility. So it clearly happened last year, and it was specific to KSE.

Now, what is happening today in KSE is relative to all other markets as it is going up and down in relation to all other markets. So there is no problem, this is a phenomenon which happened also in Bombay, Saudi Arabia, UAE.

I am bothered about last year, why did it happen only in KSE. That has been investigated and the government took corrective action and he (Tariq Hassan) has been sacked. In my opinion he should have been sacked a little earlier. He is to blame.

People have lost billions of rupees. But they have also gained when the market went up from 1000 to 10,000. This is how it (stock market) works. People gained by making billions of rupees and then they lost millions. But they gained more as the KSE- index shot up to 10,000 from 1000 points. So people gain and lose and this is the game of stock exchange. So, I think, the government has no problem with it.

The problem is that, as the elections are coming up in 2007, the opposition is now trying to see how to let down the government. They have no issues to exploit for political mileage as the economy is doing well and the development is taking place. And if we keep our political dimensions right, the country will continue to progress.

Therefore, they (the opposition) try to play up issues such as stock market crash, load-shedding etc. to let down the people. But, I would like to tell those politicians, who are trying to let down the government, that we are not like them who use to plunder the national exchequer. Those days are gone. You want to return and do the same and that is why you are trying to malign the government. So let’s stop all this. The government is doing pretty OK. There are problems but we will rectify them. When you take decisions, a few may go wrong which we will rectify. But it is better than taking no decisions. One should not worry, if one or two decisions go wrong, we will correct them.

So, I am quite satisfied that the Stock Exchange is doing very well. The fluctuations now are relative to all stock markets of the world and the region. But in 2005, it was specific to KSE and we needed to take proper and quick action, the government took action and I think we have done well.

Question: You have mentioned about the politicians and have made references to those. We are listening to the CoD and many more things as well as tall claims. There was an issue of their accountability but now they are planning to return to the country and contesting elections, why the government could not expose all their misdeeds or was it so well hidden that could not come to the public view or was there some compromise?

Answer: According to our laws, trial can not be held in absentia. There is a case in Geneva and court also announced punishment, that case is still going on, lets see the results. Secondly, there is Mr. Nawaz Sharif who is sitting in London. He went abroad after a deal that was brokered by a very close friend of Pakistan. It was because of him that he went abroad. He (Nawaz Sharif) has been sentenced by the court.

So they all have cases against them. Under the law both of them (Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto) cannot be prime minister as they have served two terms.

As far as elections are concerned, the Election Commission is fully autonomous and independent and it can decide whether, under the law, the two can contest elections.

Question: Mr. Nawaz Sharif has often stated that he was not aware of the Kargil operation, and was kept in the dark and he came to know about it from his friend Mr. Vajpayee, what is truth about it, the people of Pakistan want to know as to why a former prime minister levels such allegations?

Answer: Nawaz Sharif was very much on board on Kargil plan and he attended a briefing on it by senior Army commanders on February 5, 1999 in Kel sector.

He is consistently lying that he did not know and came to know about it from his Indian counterpart.

I will show you these pictures which will prove that he knew about the Kargil plan. In one picture Nawaz Sharif is attending a briefing by the Corps Commander Lt Gen Mahmood. The other pictures also shows Sharif addressing the troops sitting on heaps of snow.

There was no purpose of visiting Kel which is south of Kargil Sector during such an adverse weather condition other than knowing the operational details first hand.

The pictures taken on February 5, 1999, prove that the former prime minister was briefed and was on board on the Kargil Plan when Indian Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee came on Bus to Lahore and met Mr. Sharif on February 19, 1999.

These pictures belie Nawaz Sharif’s claim that he had come to know about Kargil from his Indian counterpart Vajpayee.

Look at these pictures, in one of these pictures, I am receiving him (Nawaz Sharif) — in another, he is being briefed by Corps Commander Mahmood, who later became DG ISI, while in another picture he is addressing the troops. Now why had he gone to Kel during heavy snow.

I would say that a prime minister is not worth his salt if he is being informed about such issues by his Indian counterpart.

Question: You have mentioned about Kashmir, we have seen there was a stand off on this issue with India and we have had tension, and then you moved ahead and took CBMs and talks are also continuing, but you have said in an interview in Davos and later as well that the core issues are not being addressed properly. How do you see it now, whether we are doing enough and they are doing less, what is it all about?

Answer: Elections will be held in 2007 and are very important. But according to law and constitution, they have a leeway of two months so perhaps it can be extended to January, 2008. But, as such, there is no problem and they should be held in 2007. These elections are very important because it will be first time that a parliament will complete its 5-year term. I have all along been emphasizing, political problems aside, the Assemblies must complete their mandated term. That culture must come into Pakistan and I am very glad that I have introduced that culture. Local Bodies completed their tenure. Half of the Senate members completed their tenure and now national and provincial assemblies elections will be held.

Now, these elections will be held. They are very important, they will be fair and transparent. I feel the environment is very very critical. There are progressive forces and there are retrogressive forces – forces which encourage extremism. It is a contest between them. My hope is that progressive forces should be together to defeat the extremist retrogressive forces. I would like to leave at this. I hope everyone realizes, especially the leaders sitting outside. Pakistan is bigger than they themselves. Pakistan is bigger than any individual. Pakistan is bigger than me. Pakistan is more important. I or they are not important. So, therefore, it is the parties which are important. All parties, as far as I am concerned, are welcome to contest elections. It will be transparent, it will be absolutely fair. Let there be a fair and transparent election according to the constitution of Pakistan. Let progressive forces join to defeat retrogressive forces.

Now at the international level, let me assure with all my guarantees that there is no pressure on me with regard to the ongoing fight against terrorism. Official stand of all the important countries is very favorable towards Pakistan. And they understand what Pakistan was doing to fight terrorism and extremism. No nation has done this much and they (world leaders) only express their gratitude to me (for what Pakistan is doing in the fight against terrorism). These are individuals who say that Pakistan is not doing enough. This is not the official stance.

Who can say this. If Pakistan is not doing than which other country is doing that much against terrorism and extremism. Only we have captured 600 to 700 terrorists. We have killed many al-Qaeda terrorists and the rest are on the run. We have destroyed their sanctuaries. Our 300 men have embraced martyrdom. Who else have done so much. So, this is an absolute aspersion which is only being done in the media, otherwise, it is not the stance of the world leadership. So there is gap in what the media is saying and the official position of the world leadership. Whatever one say in media is his own view and does not reflect his country’s official position. So, therefore, I am fully satisfied on that.

On democracy, if you ask a foreigner about his views, one would naturally say he looks forward to free and fair elections. It does not mean that he is telling me to hold fair and free elections. Nobody is telling me anything, I am not at all under pressure. They are very happy and they say that they are worried about the continuity of our policies. Leadership is very happy, they only ask me how will I ensure continuity of the policies, this is their worry. But media will project it in a way as if someone is giving me lecture. First of all, I am not ready to listen to any lecture about Pakistan from a non-Pakistani. Every one knows this and let me say through this channel to the world, to anyone. I don’t accept any dictate on Pakistan by a non-Pakistani. So I am looking after Pakistan’s interest to the best of my honest ability and, therefore, we don’t need advice from anyone.

However, we are conscious of democracy and we are conscious that we have to have fair, impartial, transparent elections. We are very conscious ourselves in our own interest. We are fighting extremism and terrorism because of our own interest and not because of interests of others. Because it is in the interest of Pakistan that Pakistan society does away with extremism. I am doing this (fighting terrorism) for my country but this also suits others. We will continue to do that as it suits us as well as them (world).

I want to tell the entire nation that there is no pressure on me. You will only read that in media but no official, has to this date, told me to do anything other than expressing his gratitude and thanks. We take lesson from no one, we know what we are doing and whatever we are doing is right.

Question: Mr. President! The most important event in the political history is the coming elections. The entire world is watching us. You yourself have spoken about it and have told about it. The western World, too, is watching us. How do you see it in the perspective of “inter-political dynamics”? What are your own expectations of these elections? What do you think when the Western views come before us which say that we need to do more or there has to be more democracy in Pakistan? How do you feel then? What do you have to say about that?

Answer: I have explained to the nation many a times. But let me here say that the opposition is setting a very bad precedent. They don’t understand, to what extent we are degrading ourselves.

There has to be a pride in a man, in a nation. A nation without a dignity cannot be called a nation. I have my own pride. I will never swallow this disgrace of somebody coming and dictating to me what I need to do or why I do certain things. I don’t take such dictations. We know our environment and we will do things our way. I will do things my way. I will take suggestions. But we do not take dictation, we are a nation 160 and a nuclear state. What dictation are they talking about. At the United Nations we oppose the US on many resolutions. The US knows it. This is no secret. There is no problem at all. We oppose what is not in our national interest. The Opposition says that the visitors come and dictate us. As if it is at behest of Condoleezza Rice that we change our syllabus of Islamyat and Urdu. Unfortunately this is not true. For Heaven’s sake let us have pride in ourselves as a nation. Nobody is telling me to do something. Nobody is dictating me on nuclear, democracy and extremism terrorism issues. Everything we are doing for Pakistan’s interest, whether it is in the interest of others, if it happens to be, very good. If it does not happen to be, we don’t care.

Question: Mr. President why we did not have an efficient nuclear control and command system prior to the year 2000 dur to which we “suffered A. Q. Khan” why it was so?

Answer – India conducted first nuclear test in 1974. When it conducted the nuclear test, a force imbalance came about – our strategy is of defensive deterrence – we quantify it in army, air force and navy. But when India carried out the nuclear test, the imbalance emerged in unconventional field. And so the decision was taken that Pakistan will also go nuclear. When they (India) tested missile in 1990s, we also decided to test missiles.

We had to do in a clandestine manner as the world was against it. We had to keep everything top secret. So, I will say that everyone who is involved in this since 1970s, whether I like them or not, but I give credit to them to keeping it secret. How we could keep it secret. If we had set up authorities, SPD (Strategic Planning Division) earlier, we could not have kept our programme secret. So it was between presidents and scientists. In the tenure of Mr. Bhutto, it was between Bhutto and A.Q. Khan and no body else knew. During President Ziaul-Haq’s time, it was between him and scientists and no one else knew. After his shahadat, the governments came, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and subsequently, they also involved the army chief and it continued.

And for the science organization – the organization of Dr. A.Q. Khan – two things were very important, i.e. security and financing. They themselves were responsible for security and they had the total financial autonomy as it had to be done in a clandestine manner. So it should be understood by the nation that it was the only way to do it. Now we tested our nuclear devices in 1998, so there is nothing to hide. Everybody knows that we are making nuclear (bombs) and missiles and we will continue our strategic programmes, we are afraid of no one. Now the question was to have a control. In 1998-99, when I became the army chief. The first thing I told Mr. Nawaz Sharif, and I am saying that with full credibility, I said we have these assets and they should be brought under authority as to who will look after them, and secondly, they should have a guidance on what they are doing.

So I formed the system, that is now currently in place, and presented to Nawaz Sharif and I asked him to establish these institutions. But the way he was, he did not do it for whatever reasons. After October 12 (1999), the first thing I did was to get it approved and that is how the National Command and Control Authority and SPD came into being to guide them what to do and control the finances and security.

Secondly, for the placement of our strategic nuclear and missile assets and to look after them, we formed army, navy, Air Force Strategic Force Command. Now I know what comes under whose control and what these science organisations are doing and how, what finances they are getting and we are controlling their security. That is what needed. The systems are working very well.

Question: What do you think the issue of Dr. Qadeer Khan stands or closed and would we not subjected to any arm twisting during the days to come on this issue?

Answer: Let me assure you and I am saying it openly and the whole world sees. Nobody does arm twisting on me and nobody is doing it. I have said that Dr A.Q Khan will not be handed over to anyone. Nobody will interrogate him, we will do that. And this is I am saying from the very first day and it remains the same. We don’t accept any arm twisting nor we do it in future.

Unfortunately, it is media which is talking about any arm twisting. Nobody is telling me anything and nobody is asking that Dr Khan be handed over to them. Initially they asked, but I said no, we will investigate. Is there anyone who can better investigate than we do. Secondly we are not liar. So what is the issue? We are telling you everything, we will investigate and there is no pressure on me.

But having said that, unfortunately, new facts emerge internationally and we have to ask from Dr A. Q Khan again which he had not told earlier. When documentary evidences come we have to ask and only our people do the interrogation. We are given the evidences and we investigate.

Question: How you react to the recent judgement of the Supreme Court which has generated two impressions that the judiciary is independent enough and second that there was something wrong the way we are carrying our the privatization and that these wrongs may have negative implications and that is why inquires into the matter are being demanded?

Answer: Judiciary is independent. They have given their view which is good. They have taken a view and passed the judgement and we must honour that. Judiciary, Supreme Court has its standing. It is independent. They passed the judgement. We need to see that their observations are rectified and they should not happen again.

The other aspect is that privatization is the core of our economic strategy. It is not the business of the government to be in business. Wherever it got involved in business, it produced disastrous results. Everything was running in losses. Billions of rupees are being spent to run the state owned entities like the Steel Mills, WAPDA, KESC, Rice Export Corporation of Pakistan. It is better to sell them to make them profitable. People take loans from the banks, being run by the government, and never pay them back. Billions have been lost. And wherever the government has privatized these banks there has been tremendous improvement in their working and it should not be impeded. We have a trade deficit because of increase in imports due to import of machinery, raw material which ultimately will benefit the industry. Now to maintain a balance in trade FDI remittances, exports. In FDI, privatization forms an important component. We will turn the deficit into surplus.

The government, legislature, executive and judiciary should be conscious of keeping the national interest supreme and do not let the privatization process suffer. I can assure the nation and the world that the privatization process of Pakistan is very transparent, is very fair and very good. I take personal responsibility that it is transparent and it is very good because I oversee it. I see and make sure that it is transparent. I keep in touch with those people who are coming to invest and they tell me that your process is very good. They are very impressed about the transparency of privatization process. All the privatization, whether it is PTCL, whether it is bank, or anything, it has been very very fair, above board and transparent. I give all the credit to Privatization Commission and all the people involved it. Let this issue of the Steel Mills not cast an aspersion on the privatization. It will be sad day for Pakistan if that happens, because then foreign investors will shy away and we will not like foreign investors to shy away. Let the system function.

We have set up regulatory authorities and built checks in the system. These checks and controls are very good. There can be some mistakes which we will rectify. In the wake of elections, the opposition will try to play up this issue and disgrace the government. But it is an unfortunate reality that they do not look at the national interests. Their only interests are to let down the government, the privatization process. People are talking about the involvement of the Prime Minister in stock exchange crash. I say that Prime Minister is not involved, I know it, I would be the last man to absolve a prime minister who is involve in something which damages the nation. I say Prime

Minister has nothing to do with it, he is not involved in the stock exchange, neither he is involved in buying of shares etc.

They continue to malign the Prime Minister in the media. This is their stance and they will continue to more till the 2007 elections. This is the unfortunate reality of the nation that we keep our personal rivalry ahead of national interests. Nation is more important. Whenever i see that by saying something against a person whom I dislike will make nation suffer, I never do that because i will think that nation will suffer. This should be the spirit which is not. This is a problem. Unless we learn a lesson as a nation that Pakistan is important and nobody else is important, Pakistan cannot progress.

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