Amid criticism from the opposition of President Asif Ali Zardari's reported comment that Pervez Musharraf quit under an agreement endorsed by international guarantors, Pakistan's ruling PPP today denied there had been such a deal to give "immunity" to the former military ruler.
Senior PPP leader and presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar contradicted reports in the media that Zardari had confirmed holding negotiations with international guarantors to give indemnity and safe passage to Musharraf, who stepped down as President in August last year.
Zardari reportedly told journalists at an 'iftar' he hosted on Monday that Musharraf was given a "safe exit" after his resignation because of a negotiated settlement guaranteed by "international and local" stakeholders. His remarks were widely reported in the Pakistani media on Tuesday.
"In the chat with journalists, there was no mention of negotiations with so-called national or international guarantors to give immunity to Musharraf subsequent to his exit," Babar said.
The main opposition PML-N of former premier Nawaz Sharif has demanded that Zardari should apprise parliament and the people of the deal arranged by international powers.
Senior PML-N leader and Leader of Opposition in parliament Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said Zardari's comments were "violative of national sovereignty."
"This is a serious breach of the country's sovereignty, independence and self-respect when an elected President is saying that a change in government in Pakistan came through international stakeholders having interests in the region," Khan said.
The PML-N said it would force the government to expose details of the deal by submitting motions in the National Assembly.
Following this criticism, Babar issued a statement in which he clarified that Zardari had told the journalists that "national political leaders and parties had held negotiations among themselves to chase Musharraf out of office and restore the presidency to democratic forces."
Zardari's remarks about negotiations among national political parties to "strategise the sacking of Musharraf have unfortunately been distorted and misrepresented as talks with so-called guarantors for indemnity to Musharraf," he said.
As a result of these negotiations among political parties, the national and provincial assemblies adopted resolutions calling on Musharraf to quit, Babar said.
It was also as a result of these parleys that the parties joined hands to prepare a comprehensive chargesheet to impeach Musharraf in case he refused to quit, he added.
Referring to the question of "punishing Musharraf for his crimes against the people and the Constitution," Babar said Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had already stated that it was a matter for Parliament to decide.
The reports on Zardari's alleged remarks are "part of the campaign to discredit" the President "for anything and everything that goes wrong," Babar claimed.
He also told reporters that it was unfortunate that it was being suggested that Zardari came to office as part of a deal.
"The President is democratically elected in accordance with the Constitution and the will of the people of Pakistan as expressed in the February 18 (2008) election which threw up the PPP as the majority party," he said.
It is widely perceived in Pakistan that Musharraf quit as President under a deal brokered by the US, Britain and the Saudi royal family.
Musharraf said in a recent interview that he had been given an assurance by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz that PML-N chief Sharif will not press for his trial on charges of treason for imposing emergency in 2007.