President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari's speech with Q&A session
Thank you, your exellencies! Thank you everybody, thank you Hindustan times and Assalamwaleikum India. Ladies and Gentlemen, today the fact that we are interactively talking, is in itself a modern marvel and modern miracle of today's technology and I am happy, I am honoured and I am pleased to be able to address the great nation of India, sitting in my own home in Islamabad.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are at the crossroads of history. The world is in turmoil and there are challenges to be faced, but as somebody would have said and my wife would have said and I would say, as long as the challenge is building up we shall go through the challenge and inshallah with your help and with the help of the world, we intend to grow with this challenge. India and Pakistan especially face a special challenge and the challenge is right inside us rather than outside us like my wife once said - 'In every Pakistani there is a little Indian and in every Indian there is a little Pakistani'. The problem today is whether I am talking to the Indian in me and or I am talkng to the Pakistani in me, the whole concept is the conflict of within rather than conflict of borders or conflicts of co-existence and then there is the fear that we are a small country and India is 10 times our size.
I have been on record saying I am not threatened by India, I repeat I do not feel threatened by India and India should not feel threatened by us.
We bring together peace and the message of love from Pakistan. Ladies and Gentlemen, those who don't know me, I happen to be the leader of the Pakistan People's Party. Today I am serving my great nation as the President of Pakistan, but I am also the carrier of legacy of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the first architect of the India and Pakistan's treaty called the Shimla Treaty, which we all remember historically very well, and then of course, the treaty signed by my late wife Shaheed Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi whom I remember fondly receiving in Islamabad. It was a great moment for me and my wife to receive a great leader of your country. I am sorry to say neither we have her with us nor you have Rajiv Gandhi alive today and in their memory, we stand together in hope and promise that we shall take India's friendship to a new level. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, today we have a Parliament, which has already pre-agreed upon a friendly relationship with India. In spite of our disputes, we have a great future together. Ladies and Gentlemen. We have problems, yes I will admit that -- but don't look at the challenges, look at the opportunities. I am the one who always looks at the opportunities. If somebody doesn't know me here, then let me remind you that I am the man who lived in solitary confinement in prison and was facing a charge that could have hung me from the gallows. From the gallows, I have since risen to the Presidency. That has been my walk in life. That has been my challenge in life.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to join us, help us, help each of yourself to outgrow this mindset, which keeps us away. We must embrace each other in the love that humanity has always preached from Gandhi to Budhdha to the holy Prophet Mohammed. They all talked about love. Lets live in the energy of love, which is the strongest force binding us today, tomorrow and forever.
Now ladies and gentleman I won't bore you with my bhashan on Politics.
Q: Who would you say is your political role model - Benazir Bhutto or Zulfikar Ali Bhutto?
(Ms Shobhna Bhartia , Chairperson, HT Media Ltd group)
A: First of all let me thank you for the effort that you have put personally in this occasion and it has brought us together. A little bit of both. A woman I lived with, a woman I shared my life with, a woman with three beautiful memory children. I can never forget because she is the love of my life and she remains the love of my life today and my leader. And then through her I got to see the real side of a great man, called Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whom I had seen when I was a young boy but never got the opportunity to interact. I was too young to be able to interact with him at that age. I would say again, a little bit of both. See webcast
Q: Thank you president. It is very heartening to know that your attitude like any average Pakistani citizen is so affectionately disposed towards India. But now you must have realized that extremism is very bad. And in our country, you have said that you are in love with us. But we have experienced that love from Pakistan particulary in Kashmir valley was like this valley of sorrow...Will you please do something to stop this extremism which is perpetuated by ISI? (
A: Let me remind you, we are standing here in hope and we are standing here in the light of love. I can assure you, I am myself the victim of terrorism. I lost my wife and my leader to terrorism. So, I am one who believes in change, who believes in reconciliation. Like her last book said, If I may quote her book and tell you. She ends it by saying that, "my death will be the catalyst of the change and the change I am talking about a change of the vision of the region." Hopefully, we have today an American President coming who has shown that the Americans can think in a different light and the world shall be in a different light tomorrow. We will take the world along and India along with us to hopefully complete the journey which my wife started that her death will be the catalyst of change.
Humare Hindustan aur Pakistan ko kuch western takton ne divide and rule karke kafi time tak progress nahi karne diya. Hum aaj Hindustan aur Pakistan mil ke un takton ko kya hum dikhaa sakte hain ki hum kisi duniyaan ko aage conquer kar sakte hain aur hum kisi se kam nahi rahenege. Saath milke kaam kar sakte hain kya?
(Both India and Pakistan reeled under divide and rule policy of western powers which hampered their progress. Is it possible that both countries can team up and show we are no inferiors and conquer the world?)
(Name not clear)
A:Main aapse ittefaq karta hun ki duniya ki siyasat mein, us zamane ki siyasat mein jo aaj cold war felati hai zarur divide kiye rakha aur ismein bhi main aapse agree karte hun ki aage ka safar hum dono saath chal ke duniyaan ko apni soch ki taraf mahil (divert) kar sakte hain. But conquer karne ki baat nahi karunga because I am not a conqueror.
(I agree with you that the politics at that time divided us but I also agree with the fact that in future together we can divert world's thinking towards us)
Q: We have been listening to the messages of reconciliation from PM Manmohan Singh, from ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. We have also seen how in the US, Barack Obama is taking on his own rivals on his team. Would you arrive considering bringing former president Pervez Musharraf into your Govt or as a part of it?
A: That would be upto the Parliament to decide madam, but I can assure you this much he is having a comfortable time when he is busy playing, from last I heard, Golf.........which is more than what I was doing when he was in power.
Q: Asaf Ali Zardari do you wish Musharraf at the time of playing Golf.
A: Ofcourse, Definitely becuase i wanted him to see us succeed.
Q: The economic situation in Pakistan is very worrisome and as Indians we worry about that as it weakens the economic stability of the whole region. Could you tell us what you looking at in terms of the plan for nation at the moment?
Thank you mam, I appreciate the fact that you are worrying about our future because that is the way to think. Definitely, Pakistan is going through troubling times. the world is in recession not just Pakistan. We have some issues of managment in the past, I am hoping to get into those issues and at the same time the world today is much more interactive and much more forthcoming to support Pakistan. Our concept of PPP's Govt today is to bring out the strengths of Pakistan itself. We believe in the concept of trade not aid. We feel by aid we have spoiled relations in the past. We are looking forward to trading partners in the world, I am looking forward to finding new markets for Pakistan. I am also loooking forward, let's say hopefully, at the huge market of India, of a billion people and then 1.2 billion Chinese on my neighbourhood. So I am hoping to interact with the region and take advantage of the region and take my country's development forward.
Q: Pakistan came into existence due to the stern leadership of Muslim leaders, that there was a separate country. Now it's been 61 years we had been fighting war, battles this and that. Is there any way where we can find peace for our future of all generations to come?
A: Definitely sir, and this is the beginning of what you are talking about because when the thought has come, half the work is done. So as long as we are thinking peace, we are making a progress.
Q: Main aapse yeh puchnaa chahtaan hun ki ab humare jo relation hain wo pichle chand saalon bohut acche ho gaye hain, bohut delegation humare udhar aa jaaa rahe hain and lekin ground pe jo ek trade ab tak shuru ho jaana chahiye tha wo abhi tak shuru nahi hua. In 70's we were the largest exporters from India tp pak and vice-versa.
Wo jo ek flow tha traffic ka, trade ka wo kab shuru hoga? Kahin lagta hai ki shayad abhi wo political will nahi ban paai hai jis karan se ground pe jo flow hai wo nazar nahi aata jabki wil nazar a rahi hai, delgations aa ja rahe hain. wo kab shuru hoga?
(The relations between the two countries have improved from the past few years, regular visits by delegations have also increased but the trade has not kicked off well. When will that happen?)
(name not clear)
A: Sir, I wish I could give you a specific date on that, I am looking for a time frame myself. I have requested your Prime Minister the last time we met that atleast let's open the movie industry, which we both can't stop, this is the accepted position, even that has been lost somehow in the bureaucracy in India. So, I am hoping and I request our fellow Indians to please let's make a small body. At my end, I have already moved to the parliament and have asked them to make a cacus to look ways and means of improving relations with India, specifically trade.
Q: Do you watch Bollywood films, who's your favourite actress?
A: I am sorry to say I do not get time to watch movies but I'll that I remembered that when I had the time it was a lady called Madhuri Dixit.
Q: Sir, I am a student of the St. Stephen's college. I would like to begin with a couplet, " Dono desh goli barood kyun bote hain jab dono deshon mein bhooke bacche rote hain". Will Pakistan say that it will not use the nuclear weapon first?
(A student of St. Stephens college)
A: Most definitely, I am against nuclear warfare altogether, I do not appreciate it. Pakistan will not be the first country to use nuclear weapons.
Q: President Zardari, you have just given us the headline, you have just said that 'Pakistan will not be the first country to use the nuclear weapon'.
A: Most definitely, we do not hope to ever get to that position.Me and Pakistan have been advocating, let's sign the South Asia non- nuclear treaty.I can say this with full confidence, I am sure that i can get my parliament to agree upon that straight on. Can you do the same Karan?
Q: Now here is an opportunity because of piracy in the Northern Indian Oceans, would you consider a joint operation with India to fight piracy in that part of world?
(Name not clear)
A: Sir, we are a small country,If asked i would definitely join in my capacity or whatever we can do for it.
Q: My name is Ashok Rahi, the two Germanys finally agreed to unite, is that part of your plan somewhere in the future?
A: For two Kashmirs or two Bengals or what are you asking about?
Q: If India and Pakistan re-emerging as one big country, one powerful country?
A: Sir, I will not go into that debate, but definitely we would want to be an economical trade power like the Greater Europe. United, non politically and economically.
Q: Mr. President sir, you have been sounding very very encouraging to all of us .The biggest hurdle between India and Pakistan is the issue of kashmir and I personally feel that unless this issue is settled there will be some hiccups coming from here and there again and again. How do you propose to solve this issue?
Karan Thapar: That's the question everyone would like President Zardari to answer.
A: Sir, I would like to appreciate that the Indian people started the dialogue rather than me. Let the people of Pakistan and the people of India decide. Let them force me and the Indian people force the Indian politicians to come together to find a peaceful solution and lets we can really grant justice to Kashmir and we take the fears away from each other.
Karan Thapar: The next question President Zardari comes from not just one of India's youngest MPs and most probably a future Minister Naveen Jindal.
Q: Mr. President my name is Naveen Jindal, I am Member of Parliament and a polo player and I know you are a Polo player too. My question to you is after becoming the President do you still find time to play Polo?
A: Young man, I haven't rode on a horse for 15 years, I spent eight and a half years in prison and the rest trying to get where I am.
Q: And how is your polo team doing sir?
Q: Mr. President , thank you very much good response, I was born in Lahore. The people of India like to go to Pakistan and pakistanis want to come to India, but it takes a lot of time to get a visa. Is it possible that we can get a Visa for each other in a course of 3-4 days?
(Name not clear)
A: I am hopeful that we will find a where we won't need passport. You can have a special card of some sort just like an e-card which one can show at the border and walk in.
Karan Thapar: President Zardari , our next question comes from the political editor of Hindustan Times,Vinod Sharma who is responsible for arranging the invitation which brought you to us today.
Q: Mr. President welcome to the summit. You know that the first two phases of the Kashmir elections have been peaceful and a sections in India believes that it is also on account of Pakistan's hands off policy. Will you assure that the remaining phase will be equally peaceful sir?
A: Sir, I can assure you that the government of People's party, the government of Pakistan has a hands off policy with India for a long time and that shall continue.
Q: President Zardari, President elect Barrack Obama has mentioned in unequivocal terms that he will not hesitate to use US forces unilaterally in the North West Frontier Provinces and if required in any part on the Afghan Pakistan border. Do you see a dip in the US-Pakistan relationship?
(Name not clear)
A: Sir, if I remember rightly the quote is " if we were not doing enough, if we were found to be short on taking action as such then he believes in taking actions.In fact I am looking forward to interacting with him and asking him and sitting on the map and then revisiting the whole situation in the region and hopefully to find the solution to all the problems that we have, not just terrorism.
Q: President Zardari, Smita Sharma
bol rahi hunIBN7
se, your positive comments are very encouraging. Sir,
Pakistan mein unstable democracy ki wajah wahan government within government and administrative forces ko mana jaata hai like ISI. As president
aap jamhooriyat ji jad ko kitna mazboot dekh rahe hain aur kya is tarah ki sabhi forces pe Presidency ka control hai is waqt?
Most definitely, I think democracy has travelled a great deal, although I can say it is only 73 days old but still it is a grass root democracy, a grass root party which is in power and the world environment today is very encouraging for democracy to flourish in Pakistan.
Q: My name is Ashutosh. Mr. President excuse me for asking a direct question, but my question is very simple. Whom do you think the Kashmir belongs to today?
A: Sir, to the Kashmiri people.
Ashutosh: Which country does it belong?
Q: (Not audible) Sir, you have been very frank and forthright in your comments and just to take the question about the economic union of the two countries forward . Do you witness our endaevour in the future just as we have in the Europe that we may have one currency, if not one country could we have one currency?
A: Sir, I will not go into the futuristic concept but to say that all the SAARC countries will get together and become an economic unit is really a reality. As far as Europe is concerned Britain still holds it's own currency.
Karan Thapar: I told that we have another 5 minutes only with President Zardari as he has a meeting in Islamabad in which he is already a little late. I think that he gives us time for just may be two or may be three more questions.
Q: President sahab, Late Benazir Bhutto was a very respected and charismatic leader, the fact that you referred to her as your role model and you referred to her in the answers to first four to five questions as well the beautiful portrait behind you that everybody here can see. The politics nowadays is very complex and full of contradictions , conveniences etc. Does she ever come to you in your dreams and tell you that the decision you made was right or admonishes you for the any decision?
A: If I can say to you straight on spiritually I feel her with me all the time and I feel she is guiding us, not just me but all the political forces in the country.
Karan Thapar: The next question for Mr. Zardari comes from Mr. Rashid Alvi, the Congress member from the upper house of the Indian Parliament.
Q: I congratulate you on becoming the President of Pakistan . My question is in connection with Kashmir. You just mentioned, I do not think you have any specific resolution of this problem but you mentioned Shimla agreement. As I remember your father in law Late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said that time that he signed that I advice India you rule your area and let us rule our area.If I analyse the situation with his statement it means that he agreed that this Kashmir should be the part of India and Azad Kashmir , although India still claiming on that part as also may be part of Kashmir. Do you agree with this?
Sir, I am the President of Pakistan and I must remind you that ours is a democracy. So, I am susceptible to my Parliament. I have already asked to the Parliament to go into session and make the progress on the issues of India and Pakistan which includes Kashmir and hopefully we will encourage them from my side and I request you to encourage your politicians from your side. So that we can come together and find a solution for the positive.
Karan Thapar: President Zardari we have actually run out of time but there is actually one last question. Will you accept one last question from us?
Q: President Zardari, could you please tell us about the progress of talk you have with the IMF and what reforms you will make to help solve the economic woes your country is suffering and finally would you tell us, India can help you in this regard?
( Financial Times correspondent in New Delhi)
Karan Thapar: I should tell you President Zardari that your answer will be on the front page of the Financial Times, London.
A: That would be welcome. But I was informed by my Finance Minister that they have already signed an LOI which has gone to the IMF to be waited. I think it is going through and we are hoping that it's going through. There are some conditionalities and issues but in today's time a lot of countries are going to the IMF and the world at large is in recession.And for India I will say , yes, please open up each others' borders for trade. So , I can trade with you and you can trade with me as a result we can mutually get benefit.To end with, If you can trade with China, then why not to trade with Pakistan?
Karan Thapar: Why not indeed sir.
Karan Thapar: President Zardari it is our honour to have you for this concluding session of the Hindustan Times Summit. On behalf of Ms. Bhartia I would like to say that I hope next year you might be able to join us in person.We can assure you of a very warm welcome in Delhi. My thanks to you make time for us and my apologies if I slighty delayed you for your meeting. Zardari sahab, Thank you for joining us. See webcast