LAHORE - PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should have responded strongly and firmly to the volley of hostile statements coming from Indian leaders in the context of skirmishes at the Line of Control.

Talking to a group of senior journalists on Friday at Bilawal House, Zardari said that Modi was a phenomenon and “our political and military leadership must firm up an unequivocal response to counter the anti-Pakistan propaganda. He expressed deep concern over the situation prevailing in the region particularly on Pakistan’s eastern and western borders.

Speaking in the context of current regional situation, he said that it was because of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that Pakistan had not been treated like Iraq, clearly indicating thereby that it was the nuclear deterrent which had deterred the anti-Pakistan forces from implementing their agenda.

On Pak-Iran gas pipeline project, he said, “It has to serve as a life line to build Pakistan economically.” He said his government not only matured the deal with Iran, it also did a lot of work to arrange the finances to execute the project.

He said his China policy should serve as model for the sitting government which, he said, should be pursued.  “During the PPP tenure, we brought two Chinese banks to Pakistan and more were willing to invest in Pakistan”, he said. 

Referring to Bilawal’s recent statements and the tone and tenor he was using in his speeches, the PPP leader justified his son’s utterances, saying Bilawal represented the present generation. He, however, expressed his confidence that with the passage of time he would gain maturity. He said he was in contact with MQM chief Altaf Hussain and would continue to pursue the policy of reconciliation with all political parties. He believed there should be no ball tempering in politics.

Asked about his reaction to reports that Mumtaz Bhutto, Ghinwa Bhutto and Fatima Bhutto may announce to join the PTI during its Larkana rally, Zardari said: “These guns have already been tested.” Had Ghinwa not contested election and lost to a PPP candidate, he asked.

About Mumtaz Bhutto, he said that he had lost respect among the Sindhis due to his past conduct of changing political affiliations.

He disapproved what had happened in Multan with APML leader Sheikh Rashid Ahmad at the hands of the PML-N workers.

“Political confrontation would lead to a total chaos if the warring parties did not see reason”, he warned and advised the parties to avoid confrontation to save the political system.

Talking about revamping of the PPP, he said that in his recent contact with the party workers he had observed that they had strong resentment against their local leadership.

“I am reverting to drawing board and preparing a plan to reorganise the party starting from town councils to the provincial cadres. This model would be replicated in other provinces also”, he explained. He said the entire process would take two-and-half years to complete. Zardari paid tributes to Syed Qaim Ali Shah for organising the party on these lines.

Asked if he ever advised the sitting prime minister to develop a good working relationship with the military establishment as he had practiced during his tenure, Zardari replied, “I am in no position to advise the prime minister on such matters; however, he could learn from our experiences”. 

Qualifying his statement about next general elections, he explained that the PPP was the major opposition party and timing of the future elections would be decided by the sitting government and his party. Without actually saying so, he gave the impression that next elections would be held at the stipulated time.

Commenting on contradictory statements of the PPP leaders on the current political crisis, he said, “It is part and parcel of politics, but what matters the most is what the main leadership says on a certain political situation. This reflects the party policy.”

Responding to PTI chief Imran Khan’s criticism of the Charter of Democracy, he said: “The CoD is not a waste paper but with the changing ground realities, the spirit of the document may be re-adjusted accordingly. 

Reacting to criticism coming from different quarters including from his own party men on his policy to protect the Sharifs, he said, “What we are doing is not to protect Nawaz Sharif. We are protecting democracy and vital interests of the state. And this we would continue doing not on the demands of the PML-N but because of our feeling of responsibility to achieve our objective of a strong democracy”.

To a question about sit-ins, he said they were born to fizzle out as both leaders were now trying to convert their dharnaas into political rallies. “Their demands are neither legal nor democratic in nature”, he concluded.