Pakistan PM says charges against president

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 12, 2012 6:33 AM
Pakistan PM says charges against president

By Qasim Nauman and Chris Allbritton

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, in an interview broadcast on Saturday, said corruption charges against Pakistan's president were "politically motivated" and that the president had immunity as head of state.

The premier's statements were aired on the eve of a hearing at which he faces indictment for contempt of court over his refusal to request the reopening of corruption cases against his party boss, President Asif Ali Zardari.

"There had been a lot of cases against him, and they were all politically motivated," Gilani told Al Jazeera television, referring to Zardari.

"He has got immunity. And he has not got immunity only in Pakistan, he has transnational immunity, even all over the world."

Asked if he would rather resign for the sake of the president, Gilani said if convicted of contempt, he would automatically lose his office so there was no need for him to quit.

"There's no need to step down," he said. "If I'm convicted, then I'm not supposed to be a member of the parliament."

In the wide-ranging interview, Gilani also criticized U.S. drone attacks against militants as counter-productive and said authorities in Islamabad gave no authorization for them.

"I want to inform you that we did not allow or give permission to fly drones from Pakistan," he said.

"Number two, drones are counterproductive. And we had discussed thoroughly with the U.S. administration that we at times make a lot of efforts to very successfully isolate militants from the local tribes."

Drone attacks generated negative reaction, he said, with tribesmen in areas bordering Afghanistan.

"Then the local tribes and the militants, they get united again," he said. "They make our jobs extremely difficult. Then there is less political space for us."

Gilani also said he had "good relations" with the military "at the moment." That was a reference to tensions pitting the civilian government against the military over a memo sent to the Pentagon seeking U.S. help in preventing a feared military coup after the U.S. commando raid in Pakistan that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

(Editing by Ron Popeski)