Asif Zardari hints at talks with Nawaz Sharif

Asif Zardari hints at talks with Nawaz Sharif

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People's Party Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari said on Tuesday that the next parliament would have the proper mandate to amend Articles 62 and 63.

"The public representatives elected after the 2018 general elections will have the mandate to do so," he said, while addressing a press conference.

He predicted that there would be a higher number of independent candidates contesting the 2018 elections. Zardari also stressed the need for reconciliation, saying that dialogue was necessary to strengthen the parliament.

"Benazir Bhutto did not take out a rally on the GT Road when she was ousted in the 90s. I saved the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government. We have to initiate dialogue to strengthen the parliament. Everyone has the right to contest elections," he said.

He added that he was not upset with the incumbent government and was open to dialogue.

"The cases against me were politically motivated. I was tortured in prison and my throat and tongue were slit. I have only now been acquitted in the last case. I defeated 12 cases and I thank God," he said.

"I was arrested after being trapped in false cases ... I was transferred from Lahore to Karachi and then to Landhi Jail. It is a long story. There were fourteen cases against me, not one," he said.

"But I do not want to bother people with those stories at the moment. All I want to say is that this is not the first time this is happening to me and there have been politically motivated cases against us before," he said.

Zardari said that he did not intend to take legal action against those who had filed the cases against him. "The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) does not believe in taking revenge," he said.

The former president said that he was tortured and then accused of trying to commit suicide.

"I spent more time in prison than the sentence I would have received had I been convicted in these cases," he said.

He said that Murtaza Bhutto was martyred in order to topple Benazir's government.

Talking about Nawaz Sharif, he said that when Benazir Bhutto was negotiating the National Reconciliation Order's (NRO) terms, she had also spoken about Nawaz's return.

"I have always kept in mind the bigger picture throughout my political career. I could have formed my government in Punjab after 2008, but I let the Sharifs form theirs. Without the Sharifs, I could not have ousted Musharraf," he added.

He said electoral reforms had been carried out through the NRO, which made Nawaz Sharif's return possible.

"We are not scared of judiciary. I had all the powers for five years as president, which I surrendered voluntarily," he said.

Speaking about PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the former president said that the Bhutto scion possessed full authority and that no one could say no to him.

Zardari faced a total of six corruption references: apart from the assets reference, the former president was also implicated in the SGS, Cotecna, Polo Ground, Ursus Tractors and ARY Gold corruption references.

NAB re-opened these references once Zardari had completed his term in office, but he had already been acquitted in five of the six references after a re-trial before an accountability court.

The request for Zardari's acquittal from the final reference, submitted by his counsel and PPP leader Farooq H Naek, was recently accepted by Justice Khalid Mahmood Ranjha, who ruled that the reference lacked a legal basis.