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Ready to become PM if needed: Zardari

The PPP chairman says he will contest the June 18 by-poll to the lower house of parliament and could take over as PM if the need arises.
IANS | By HT Correspondent, Islamabad
UPDATED ON APR 20, 2008 04:30 PM IST

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari says he will contest the June 18 by-poll to the lower house of parliament and could take over as prime minister if the "need arises".

In an interview with BBC Urdu telecast on Sunday, Zardari said he would file his papers from his slain wife Benazir Bhutto's Larkana constituency in Sindh.

At the same time, he would not "guarantee" he would become the prime minister but would assume the office "if it were needed".

According to Zardari, the people had voted for a new dispensation in the general elections that had seen a coalition comprising the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) come to power and that the new government was committed to taking the process forward.

"People have voted for us to bring about change ... changing the system. We will bring change, but its timing depends on circumstances," he added.

Zardari also accused "the establishment" that brought President Pervez Musharraf to power after a military coup in 1999 of being involved in "palace intrigues" against the new government.

"The same forces" had urged Benazir Bhutto to boycott the general elections and "when she refused to do so, they threatened to restrict her to the province of Sindh", Zardari maintained.

The Pakistani government, he said, would formally write to the United Nations within two weeks to urge it to head a probe into Benazir's killing on Dec 27.

On the coalition's relations with Musharraf, Zardari said the status quo would be maintained but the government could "think about" his accountability if it was sure of a two-thirds majority in parliament.

In this context, he noted that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had secured a confidence vote by more than a two-thirds majority "but some members might not vote for the president's accountability".

Zardari also brushed aside suggestions of a love-hate relationship with the president, saying he neither loved nor hated Musharraf.

The coalition partners, he said, were sitting in an assembly that was not the president's "personal fief" but "their own assembly".

Musharraf too had a role to play in the new set-up and "we want to maintain the status quo".

"For the sake of Pakistan, we do not want confrontation with anyone. This does not necessarily mean that we support President Musharraf. Whenever we manage to get a two-thirds majority in parliament, we will think about impeaching him," said Zardari.

Asked whether he and his party had accepted Musharraf because of political expediency, Zardari replied: "No. We have done so because of our wish to get the requisite political support."

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