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Q&A With Asif Ali Zardari

The widower of Benazir Bhutto.

11:00 PM, Feb 12, 2008 • By URS GEHRIGER
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Whether in the Gandhi family, the Nehru family in India, the Bandaranaike family in Sri Lanka or the Bangladeshi families, the families which lead in South East Asia have to lead from a front. They have made a contribution. They have the support and the affection of the people. The affection is people's feelings. That is what democracy is all about. If you feel for somebody you consider it a democratic value. The house of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has lost nearly all its living members in the cause of democracy. So I think, any other family of political background has given such a sacrifice to the nation. And in the homage to the nation we carry on with the legacy.

Q: Did your wife discuss the will with you when she wrote it down on October 16th last year, two days before she returned back to Pakistan?

A: No, we had no idea.

Q: Why did you wait for over a month to make the will public?

A: We showed it to the people concerned. I first showed it to her sister, then I showed it to the children, I showed it to all the important members of the highest body of the PPP. It was read out in a meeting of the Central Executive Committee and the people who mattered knew about it. It is a tradition in the East that we sit down on the 40iest day after the decease of a person and we basically disclose what the liabilities and what the possibilities are. I thought it was only fair that it should come out on the 40iest. And as it is it was good to come out as part of the second edition of her book Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West that has been published these days.

Q: If the PPP does win the elections, as many expect it to, would you like to take a national leadership role?

A: At the moment the party is not considering that, at the moment the party is only considering to go into the elections. And I am not standing for the membership of the parliament. You have to be a member of parliament to take an office.

Q: But you are well aware of the fact that this can be changed. There is a seat vacancy where your late wife was standing for. You could stand from there.

A: I can lead the party. That is the biggest legacy.

Q: In a recent interview with Newsweek you seemed to leave this question deliberately open. You said "I may or may not" take the role of Prime Minister.

A: It was out of context. What I was saying is that traditionally the chairman of a political party is always considered as Prime Minister.

Q: So, you are not ruling it out then?

A: The party leadership will ultimately decide who the Prime Minister candidate should be.

Q: There is quite a bit of reservation against you among Pakistani people. You were nicknamed "Mister 10 percent." When you were minister in the government of your wife you were jailed for charges that included corruption, extortion, even the murder of your brother in law Murtaza.

A: Let me put it in other terms. Pakistan is a country where the chief justice (Iftakhar Chaudry) can be charged with corruption without reason. It is a country where he can be put back into the bar and then be rearrested. There are children arrested without a charge. How can any accusation be justified or taken seriously?

Q: You would say that all cases against were inaccurate?

A: Like I said, the chief executive of the country is accusing the chief justice of being corrupt. This government is on record on admitting politically motivated cases.

Q: You have been in prison for more than eleven years. How have you changed during that time?

A: I think it taught me patience. It taught me how to resist pain. It taught me to think. It taught me to live with one's own self. Political confinement for eleven years is a difficult situation to be in. One has to learn and live from within oneself. The inner self has to be as big as the situation is or as big as the idea is. One should always think beyond one's self.

Q: Before marriage you were well known as a polo-playing Playboy. How has the marriage with Benazir Bhutto matured you?

A: First of all let me correct you here. That is what my political enemies claimed, the people who have always tried to weaken democracy. Yes I did play polo. But Pakistan is an Islamic society. We do not look up to playboys.

Q: What was your relationship with Benazir Bhutto like?