LAHORE - President Asif Ali Zardari has ruled out any compromise on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project saying that ‘no power can disrupt it’.

Talking to the editors, columnists and senior journalists at Bilawal House on Saturday, President Zardari said that he would not betray the democratic system.

Zardari promised smooth transfer of power to the winner of general elections, saying, “I will not become a Ghulam Ishaq Khan”, a reference to the former president who dissolved assembles a number of times and set up an election cell at the presidency to doctor polls.

He also promised on-time elections and said that after dissolution of assembles the caretaker government would hold elections in 60 days. He said the consultation between the government and the opposition was ongoing though the opposition was yet to give names for caretaker prime minster.

President Zardari said that as an independent nation Pakistan is free to decide its future and Pak-Iran gasline project would be completed at every cost. Nobody has power to halt it as the project did not violate any international law, he said.

“Pakistan has signed agreements with the neighbouring country to cope with the energy crisis, which has pushed our national economy to the verge of destruction.” Commenting on Gwadar Port project, the president said that Pakistan would take independent decisions in its national interest.

The president said that future of the country lies in democracy. He said the democratic government has completed its five-year term despite many upheavals. “No one can dare deprive us of democracy now and if anybody will try to do so, he/she will face bitter resistance from us... If elections can be held in war-torn Afghanistan, why can’t they be held in Pakistan,” the president remarked.

When Zardari was pointed out that being the president he won’t be able to lead his party’s election campaign like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, he held the hand of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, raised it up and remarked, “This man will lead PPP’s campaign”. When his attention was drawn to the efforts of different political parties for luring the youth, he pointed towards Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and said, “Our leadership is also in the hands of youth”.

Zardari said he had a dream to have a residence in Lahore and now he fulfilled his desire by constructing Bilawal House in the city. He said ‘Takht-e-Lahore has also realised now that it will have to give the people of southern Punjab their rights. It is because of PPP’s pro-people conduct that other parties have also been compelled to contact the masses and take up their issues.

Without naming the PML-N, he said non-state actors have become a political compulsion for some parties but such elements will lose their strength with strengthening of political parties. About Fazlur Rehman’s campaign for talks with the Taliban, he said the PML-F is a political force and if its chief helps find a way for national peace, it would be welcome. He repeatedly said that he has great respect for media men and would hold monthly meetings with them.

Staff Reporter adds: Earlier in the day the president held meeting with different political leaders and delegations at the Bilawal House. He expressed the hope that upcoming elections would be fair and transparent as the candidates would be sifted through articles 62 and 63 of the constitution.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Abad also called on President Zardari and discussed with him the political situation and matters related to interim set-up in Sindh. The meeting also touched upon the PPP-MQM differences arising after withdrawal of the Sindh Peoples Local Government Ordinance that followed MQM’s quitting the coalition government.

PML-Q Punjab President Ch Pervez Elahi also called on the president. Sunni Ittehad Council Chairman Sahibzada Fazle Karim, who now has seat adjustment agreement with Q-League, was also present the occasion. During the talk, they exchanged views on the interim government at the federal level and other election matters.

Zardari also held a meeting with the party members from Sahiwal district. Talking to them, he reiterated that elections would be held on time.