Zardari and Gilani are together: Rehman Malik


Islamabad : Cautioning that Pakistan’s unity was at stake, Interior Minister Rehman Malik Saturday sought to dispel reports of differences between President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, even as he urged the agitating lawyers to come to the negotiating table rather than marching on Islamabad to enforce their demands.

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“There are no differences between the president and the prime minister,” he said at a press conference here, adding: “This is disinformation being spread by our enemies.”

“Let us not head toward another East Pakistan,” he said, while appealing to the protesting lawyers to abandon their ‘long march’ and sit for talks with the government.

The reference was to the agitation in the erstwhile East Pakistan after the 1971 elections that eventually led to the creation of an independent Bangladesh. The agitation began after then military dictator Gen. Yahya Khan refused to accept the electoral verdict that saw the Awami League of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman emerge as the largest party in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

“I appeal to you to come for talks. Please postpone your agitation. Your march is against the unity of the nation,” Rehman maintained.

“If at all there has to be a march, let us march to Swat, to FATA. Let us march for the country,” he stated.

“I again appeal to you. Please consider the interests of the country. Don’t march to Islamabad. Let’s talk and resolve our issues,” the interior minister said, adding: “The long march cannot be against the interest of Pakistan.”

Thousands of lawyers Thursday set out simultaneously from Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab and will converge here March 16 to demand the reinstatement of the Supreme Court and the high courts whom then president Pervez Musharraf had sacked after imposing an emergency in November 2007. A similar agitation a year ago had resulted in Musharraf’s ouster.

Malik refused to be drawn into the circumstances under which information and broadcasting minister Sherry Rehman had resigned early Saturday apparently due to the government blacking out Geo TV and other private channels for highlighting the lawyer’s stir.

“Only she can answer that question,” the interior minister said.

He also contended that the government had nothing do with the blackout.

“There was a dispute regarding the channel. It was a problem of the cable operators. We had nothing to do with it. We believe in the freedom of journalism,” Malik maintained.

At the same time, he implied that the private TV channels were not “independent”.

“I want you to watch five channels. Are they partial or are they impartial?” he asked.