Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zardari said on Wednesday said that the army was “apolitical” for the first time, asking whether the situation warranted saluting Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa or “fighting” with him.

“Should Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa be saluted for [keeping] the army apolitical or shall he be criticised?” asked Zardari, adding that the government will try to make sure “they” remain apolitical and neutral in the future.

Faiz Hameed has been khuddi laen (sidelined)

When asked whether he would salute former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, Zardari replied, “he has been khuddi laen (sidelined).”

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Talking about the judiciary, which has been criticised by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, Zardari said he had never run a campaign against them.

“[Former military ruler] Pervez Musharraf kept me in jail for five years but we did not attack his house and I have said internationally, I want to see Musharraf alive.”

“I think we should let the institution do its work and help them.”

General elections only after the government introduces electoral reforms

Asif Ali Zardari said that Pakistan would move towards general elections only after the government introduces electoral reforms.

“Electoral and NAB (National Accountability Bureau) reforms are included in our game plan,” the ex-president said during a a meeting with journalists, noting that if polls are held before reforms, then any government that comes into power will face the issues that the past and present regimes are facing.

“We have to change laws and improve them and then go to elections. Whether it takes three or four months, we have to work on implementation of policies and improving the electoral process,” Zardari said at a press conference in Karachi.

He said he had consulted Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Mian Nawaz Sharif and “made him understand that as soon as our reforms and low-hanging fruit targets are complete [we can go to polls]”.

When will the new army chief be appointed?

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif in a recent interview said that there was a possibility of holding elections before November. In response, Zardari said the PML-N leader had his own thoughts and was bound to listen to his party’s directives.

“The PML-N decided with me that until electoral reforms were brought, there would be no [talk] about the new army chief’s appointment.” Once the electoral reforms had been introduced and the economic situation had improved and the parliament believes it is time to go for elections, polls can then be held, he added.

‘Out of box solutions to fix economy’

Speaking on the economy, Zardari said, “We did not take any votes from the PTI’s dissident lawmakers,” he said, adding that he has come to power to know the prices of “aaloo, tamatar, unlike Khan.”

Zardari also called for “out of the box” solutions to fix Pakistan’s economy as the country faces an uphill task on the fiscal front.

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He maintained that the new government will take some time to control the situation. Asif Zardari said that the nation will have to face problems until the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme is finalised.

He said he had a lot of “out-of-the-box thought processes”, including about the State Life Insurance Corporation. “It is an investment of more than Rs100 billion. Give 26 per cent of it to a business house with a good track record and float 26pc [of its shares] in the market. You will get at least Rs8 to 10bn.”

 There is no such thing. He (Imran) has created a political myth:

Zardari, while responding to a question, said he had not read the cable that Imran claimed contained proof of a “foreign conspiracy” to oust him.

“I do not believe any [US] State Department official is irresponsible enough to [say] what you have read out to me. There is no such thing. He (Imran) has created a political myth. What need does the US have [to interfere]?”

The former president said Pakistan needs to correct its policies and portray itself as a safe haven so the international community would consider it as a partner.

He slammed Imran for labelling his opponents as Mir Jafars and Mir Sadiqs. “If anyone can run the country, it is us, not him. His own friends left him because they (PTI) could not fulfil their political commitments.”