PPP will consult ARD before talks with govt
By Shahzad Malik
ISLAMABAD: Asif Ali Zardari, the spouse of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, on Tuesday night said that dialogue with the army could not be ruled out and all component parties of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) would be consulted before initiating talks with the establishment.
Talking to a select group of journalists on his arrival from Lahore, he said the government was scared of the PPP’s popularity and claimed that general elections would be held in 2005. He said that he would visit various parts of the country to muster support for his party and also to reorganise it. He suggested forming an interim government which could hold free and fair elections.
He said that chairperson Benazir Bhutto was the party’s leader and that he had no intention of overtaking her.
Zardari said that he was trying to bring dissident party workers back to the fold in his capacity as a member of the party’s central executive committee.
To another question, Zardari said that the party leadership would talk to those party workers who had contested the last election independently and did not join the PPP-Patriots who had betrayed the party.
He said that the PPP leadership had decided to help Nawaz Sharif when he was in trouble.
Zardari said that he met Nawaz Sharif in Jeddah along with Benazir Bhutto and he (Nawaz) agreed to the need to restore the 1973 Constitution in its original form.
He denied rumours that he was making a secret deal with the establishment.
ARD chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim, PPP-P Secretary General Raja Pervez Ashraf, and MNA Shireen Rehman accompanied Zardari at the Islamabad airport.
A large number of police personnel were deployed at the airport and only 100 PPP workers managed to enter the airport premises to welcome Zardari.
Meanwhile, Rawalpindi police continued searches and raided homes of PPP workers and arrested five more workers.