iconimg Sunday, August 30, 2015

Vinod Sharma, PTI
April 19, 2005
Is it just coincidence that you plan to return home the day President Musharraf arrives in India. Aren't you seeking to internationalise your domestic political battle with the General?
Fate is helping us internationalise the domestic situation. I hadn't planned it that way. You must question the General about his treatment of liberal democratic forces while promising to promote the values we represent. Why is it that our party, the PPP, is being offered the shortest crease on the Pak political turf ?

What kind of reception do you expect in Lahore?
If they deny me entry or refuse landing, the world will know that the forces to reckon with -- and support -- are Pakistan's liberal forces represented by the PPP. The establishment abdicated the Constitution thrice a day to put together a government at our expense. And now to crush our Lahore rally, they have arrested 25,000 PPP workers across Pakistan, stopping thousands of others on the borders of NWFP, Kashmir and Sindh.

Will Benazir accompany you to Lahore?
That's their fear, the party hasn't decided on her return so far. In politics, one has to choose one's timing.

It's widely believed that your release on bail is part of a deal...
In democracy, dialogue is an important tool. We are engaged in talks -- today and even when I was in jail. But there is no truth to reports that Musharraf met us. Our pointsperson is Ameen Fahim, working president of PPP (Parliamentarians).

What's the problem in talking directly to Musharraf?
He knows our address. I was in his prison for five out of a total of 8 years I served this time (in addition to the three year term during Nawaz Sharif's period).

Do you wish the President well in his talks with India?
I wish Pakistan well. From the days of Simla to the year Rajiv Gandhi came to Islamabad and signed two key accords with Benazir, the PPP has maintained that only peace, co-existence and democracy can ensure a better future for our countries. We are too poor and too many to think of war. We were branded security risks when we entered into agreements with India. Much of what's being done now has its genesis in our vision of peace and friendship.

Is the General sincere about peace with India?
That will be like looking into the mirror of future. I cannot read his mind. But the people of Pakistan are definitely for peace and so is our party. Musharraf should know that he has to restore genuine democracy in Pakistan to carry conviction with people and leaders across the world.

There is speculation that you might take over as PPP president....
It isn't true because there is no vacancy. A more competent person (Benazir) is there, doing an excellent job. The PPP emerged as the single largest party in the National Assembly at a time when she was in exile.

Can there be a deal between you and the General?
There can be a dialogue on the future of democratic Pakistan.

Do you agree to the proposition that in comparison, Musharraf is a benign military ruler?
How do you define a benign dictator?

Who is your bigger adversary -Musharraf or fundamentalists?
The establishment, which consists of both.