PRIME Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani says he told the Americans in clear words during his recent Washington visit that President Pervez Musharraf is quite “irrelevant” to Pakistan and that the Bush administration showed its strong willingness to work closely with him as the head of the new politically-elected government.
“I also told the Americans that the people of Pakistan did not appreciate them only because they had been supporting the military dictators in Pakistan,” Gilani said in an interview to the leading English language daily The News.
He defended his decision to visit the US within the first three months of his office and said it was wrong to assume that he had undertaken the trip at a wrong time.
The prime minister said he had informed the Americans who were asking questions about the “effectiveness” of Musharraf that he was only a “ceremonial” head of state as the real power to run the government was with the prime minister of Pakistan.
Gilani sounded confident that his visit to the White House had helped Pakistan to change the aggressive tone of the Americans, as now they were talking of working closely with Islamabad for strengthening democracy and dealing with the issue of unrest in the tribal areas of the country instead of invading the tribal areas as was being indicated before his visit.
However, Gilani expressed feelings of hurt at the hostile treatment he received at the hands of the Pakistani media, saying that the American press was writing good things about him, but he was put on swords by the Pakistani media.
“But, I have no complaint whatsoever, as this was the same Pakistani media which had kept me and Asif Ali Zardari alive in politics during the military rule when we were rotting in jail.”
Gilani said personally he did not mind the criticism as only a free and fair media could strengthen the political and democratic system and it would ultimately benefit the state and its organs.
He was surprised to read some hostile stories in the local media. Otherwise, according to his perception, his first visit was very successful as he managed to convey a clear message to the Bush administration about what actually was in the best interests of Pakistan.
The prime minister said during his interaction at different levels, he had told the Americans that Musharraf was now irrelevant to Pakistan as this was actually a parliamentary system where a prime minister was the real boss.
Referring to his interaction with an American think tank, Gilani said he was asked a question about the “effectiveness” of Musharraf in the present day Pakistan.