Polls meaningless without restoration of judiciary, free media: Imran Khan

February 19th, 2008 - 12:19 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto
By Zofeen T. Ebrahim
Karachi, Feb 19 (IANS) Violence during the crucial parliamentary elections in Pakistan could well be the precursor to wide spread street protests in the country, Tehreek-I-Insaf chief and cricket legend Imran Khan, who boycotted the polls, has said. He firmly believes the elections held Monday are a farce due to unprecedented pre-poll rigging. A very busy Khan took out 15 minutes to speak to IANS over phone from Islamabad: Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Who do you think will be the next PM?

A: It’s too soon to make such predictions, but I can predict a lot of street protest in the coming days. There has been unprecedented pre-poll rigging already and the battle lines are already drawn against the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q (also known as the King’s party).

Q: What are your predictions for the Pakistan Peoples Party? Will there be a split soon? Is something like that in the air?

A: After the elections if PPP wins and makes a deal with the government, I suspect the die-hard stalwarts of the PPP, who still believe in Bhutto’s ideology, will find it difficult to stay together. If they do not ask for the reinstatement of the judges, they are playing Musharraf’s game; the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) will react strongly.

Q: But before her death, Benazir Bhutto was pandering to President Musharraf’s wishes?

A: Yes, but she enjoyed that authority, her husband, Asif Ali Zardari does not wield the same acceptance.

Q: What are the chances of the PML-Q winning the polls?

A: If they do it will be the mother of all riggings because people are now voting for PPP or the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz) out of hatred for Musharraf and his policies. The country is going through its worst turmoil - in the form of an economic meltdown.

Q: Asif Ali Zardari has warned of civil war if elections are rigged? Should this be taken seriously?

A: I believe this could well be the situation for Sindh if PPP does not win there. And if PML-Q wins, there will be the worst backlash ever all over the country.

Q: The results are somewhat predictable - a hung parliament or a weak coalition government. Is that the best plan or would you like to share a better plan out of the crises we are in?

A: Given the challenges we face now, the only one way out of the crises we are in is an immediate re-instatement of the judiciary, stop muzzling the media and bring the Election Commission of Pakistan under the protection of the independent judiciary.

Q: By whom, as Musharraf will not let that happen, he has made it plain?

A: This can be done by the chief of army staff, General Ashfaque Kiyani and Musharraf can make his exit.

Q: So are you saying that Musharraf can leave without undoing all the wrongs he has done? Isn’t that letting him go off easily?

A: Well the longer he stays, the more damage he is doing to the country by his immoral compromises.

Q: Any face-saving exit strategy for Pervez Musharraf?

A: There can be an agreement that if he leaves now, Article 6 of the constitution (death penalty) won’t be invoked. He will be assured that no harm will come to him if he gets off the tiger he is riding.

Q: What do you make of General Ashfaque Kayani’s move of calling away all army personnel from civilian offices?

A: That was a move in the right direction, I must say. But he must now stop the killing of our people. It is exacerbating the situation and he must realise that there has to be a solution other than a military one to stop rising militancy and extremism.

Q. What have parties such as yours gained by boycotting the elections? How can democracy be served?

A: We are standing by the deposed chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and boycotting the elections held under Musharraf’s illegal Provisional Constitutional Order.

Q: Would you not have served the people of Pakistan better by having a seat in the parliament?

A: No, I would not have. I sat in the parliament for five years, which was a rubber stamp parliament and did more damage by staying there.

(Zofeen Ebrahim can be contacted at zofeen28@hotmail.com)

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