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Old Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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Arrow Zardari rules out imposition of martial law

Zardari rules out imposition of martial law

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari, ruling out the imposition of martial law in the country, has said that the problems the country faces are too great to inspire a usurper.
In his interaction with foreign media, President Zardari declined to respond to suggestions that his political coalition was cracking. "I don't think anybody in his right mind will be wanting to take this responsibility. It's only democracy that can carry this yoke."
Asif Ali Zardari said it would take Pakistan at least three years to recover from its worst floods in living memory. Even with that, he wasn't certain of the time-frame. "Your guess is as good as mine," he said.
Zardari admitted that in the interim, his government will face social disarray, with militants keen to take advantage of the crisis, according to the TIME.
Zardari said with 20 million people affected, Pakistan would not fully recover. "I don't think anybody will fully recover. I don't think people have fully recovered from the shock of Katrina, or 9/11 for that matter. I don't think New Yorkers have fully recovered from the shock of that."
As for his country, Zardari said: "In between, we'll have to go through the trauma of bad medicine, good medicine, pain, the effects of pain. That, we'll have to live through. All nations, when they've been given such challenges, have always evolved stronger nations, have evolved better nations. I'm hoping for the best."
Already unpopular and perceived to be weak before the disaster, Zardari appeared to resign himself to even more criticism. "There will be discontentment," he said. "There is no way any nation, even if it's a superpower - we've seen examples in Katrina, we've seen Haiti, we've seen examples everywhere else - can bring the same level of satisfaction that will be close to the expectations of people."
Zardari praised Washington for leading a humanitarian effort with the largest contribution, $150 million. But then, while expressing a wish that his ally the US could have done more, he meandered into an unusual comparison. "Everybody knows that the Americans want to help and have helped as much as they can," he said. "But America itself is going through a lot of economic crises. They are helping as much as they can ... I would love for them to love me as much as GM [General Motors]. But then, GM is made in America and belongs to America. After all, I'm another country. And their taxpayers will only allow this much of support."
He scattered other stray and sometimes odd observations throughout the interview: "The answer to democracy is more democracy. It's not the sun that melts the glacier, it's the rain. We're on the Soviet border."
Dressed in a gray Shalwar Kameez and matching waistcoat, the embattled President Zardari insisted that his government was capable of rising to the occasion. "Surely we will try and meet [expectations] as much as we can, and as far as we can. We will stretch the Band-Aid to the maximum."
Throughout the interview, he cast his mind back to when the country was last plunged into a major crisis: the aftermath of the December 2007 assassination of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. "At the time, we said democracy is the best revenge," Zardari said, trying to draw strength from the past. Bhutto's portrait sat on a small table to his left. It is also prominently displayed on the large white marble walls of the presidential palace he occupies in the centre of Islamabad.
Some politicians have been fiercely critical of Zardari. One opposition leader called the president's decision two weeks ago, as the waters rose back home, to fly to his family chateau in Normandy "his Marie Antoinette moment". Reminded of that criticism during the interview, Zardari turned from serious and sober-minded to sarcastic: "It gives me a reassurance that I'm so wanted," he said sharply. "There is a question that I'm so wanted and so desired by the people that [they ask] 'Why were you out?' I have my own reasons for being where I was and at what time," he said.
The summer sojourn, he suggested, was a necessary respite. "This is a long-term situation, and one has to have the capacity to sustain yourself for three years, or even more, and not exhaust yourself immediately ... Anyway, that's part of the past, and that's happened, and that's gone, and I'm here," he added.
Zardari warned that Pakistan's militants, including those suspected of killing his wife, were keen to exploit the floods. He said Islamabad's resolve to fight the militants has not slackened. "I'm hoping that most of them have drowned also," he said with a slight smile. "I also have information that some of their armaments have come down." But readjusting his tone, he continued: "I see always such organisations and such people taking advantage of this human crisis. It is again a challenge not to let them take advantage of this human crisis."
Zardari said he understood the reactions of those affected. "What can you tell a mother whose child drowned?" he said. "She's hurting. What I can do for her that will take the pain away? All I can do is share the pain." Much of the problem, he said, lay with poor infrastructure. "I think [Pakistan] was not geared to cater to such an eventuality."
"That is the ideal hope for the radical," Zardari said. "That's his hope, that hopefully the structure of the state will fail and that he will come out and be the winner." But Zardari said he did not expect trouble from rival political parties, which also have a stake in maintaining stability. "Even if [Nawaz Sharif's] party is opposing me in the centre, they are sharing power with us in the province," he insisted.
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