Islamabad: Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will appear before the country's Supreme Court to answer a contempt of court notice later this week amidst questions over whether the country's civilian government can survive. But emboldened by winning a trust vote in Parliament on Monday, its top leadership is now asserting that there is no question of the PM resigning or the government being sacked.
Here's the full transcript of Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik's interview to NDTV's Barkha Dutt:
NDTV: The entire world has its eye on Pakistan with many people believing that the country is in internal turmoil. On the one hand you have the Prime Minister of Pakistan getting the contempt of court notice from the Supreme Court; when on the other hand the President Zardari led government has won a trust vote in the Pakistan National Assembly, asserting the supremacy of Parliament. Of course, with all this happening, India as ever is watching carefully and closely, wondering if it will have any impact on India-Pakistan ties. Joining us now is somebody who is one of the most important leaders in this government, and somebody who has been at the forefront of the civilian government's battle to assert the supremacy of Parliament, the Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Sir, always a pleasure to be talking to you here in Islamabad. I want to start by asking you the very basic question. I heard you say at your press conference, to a journalist, that all of you thought that by Monday this government would be out. Now I am asking you, by Thursday, will the government still be in power and will Prime Minister Gilani still be the Prime Minister?
Rehman Malik: First of all, let me welcome you Barkha to Pakistan, and my best greetings to the viewers in India, my brothers and sisters. And the way we are moving forward in friendship and in co-operation, I hope this year will bring much better environment, circumstances for the two governments to move forward. Now, I think that journalists have got the same line. I responded to the BBC on that question in which he told me, "Mr Malik, you will be out of your job on Monday because your government is going to be derailed." Well, it is your prerogative to ask any question you want, but don't forget that Pakistan is going through a transition to democracy. Well, with the history of Pakistan, normally the government does not cross three years. And, Alhamdulillah, we have done four years with all these turmoil, in your words, but I say that with the difference of opinion, difference of opinion with our political opponents. And of course, the institutions are working together, and working together for the betterment of Pakistan, for the prosperity of Pakistan. And don't forget that we are at war. We are fighting a war, a war which has been imposed on us, whether they are western borders, or it is within Pakistan. So, if you see the combination of all that and then you judge the performance of the government. And then you very rightly said, you have to go by the voice of the people of Pakistan. And the voice of the people of Pakistan has already given us five years. Nobody has the right politically, morally to ask us to resign, or even to think about it, to ask to leave before five years. Well, the political opponent will keep undoing it. They will keep on doing all these things. You saw how our opponents have got isolated in the National Assembly, so what is important is that you have to see the voice of the people of Pakistan. And the voice of the people of Pakistan says that, yes, we should complete five years.
NDTV: So will the Prime Minister remain the Prime Minister or could you have a different Prime Minister? I ask this because it is Prime Minister Gilani who has to appear in Court. The Court is angry with him for not reopening corruption allegations against your President.
Rehman Malik: Well, I will not say that the Court is angry.
NDTV: The Court called him dishonest. The Court called the Prime Minister a dishonest man.
Rehman Malik: There was some impression given by the media declaring him dishonest, but some of the honourable judges yesterday categorically stated that they never said that he is dishonest. Now, madam it should not be taken as negatively as the way that you are taking. The Court has summoned him. Right? And this is the opportunity where the Prime Minister will tell the court as to what is his view. The legal team is already examining the show cause notice given by the Supreme Court. So I think that in a way, the way we are moving forward, in fact things are getting clearer and clearer. And, of course, if all the institutions work according to the Constitution, and within the given and defined parameters, there will be no problem and there will be many Thursdays and there will be many months you will find us here. I think our opponents will be seen to be disappointed.
NDTV: According to you there is no question of Prime Minister Yosuf Raza Gilani resigning because of this Court notice or because of what the Court may say?
Rehman Malik: First of all, when you are fighting a war, whether you are fighting a war on the borders or you are fighting a war with your political opponents, the political opponents always try to create a situation, environment, or perceptions, but they are very far off from reality. Prime Minister Gilani is not going to resign. The whole party has backed him yesterday and the people of Pakistan are behind him. So, I think, that all these rumours are after all rumours. They will be frustrated on Thursday and, of course, it is a process. Well, there are some miscommunications. Of course the Prime Minister will clear it on Thursday before the honorable Court.
NDTV: Now you say that the Parliament is the voice of the people and the voice of the people has backed your government because you have won the trust vote. But your critics say that a democracy also must have an independent judiciary. And you will remember that the reinstatement of this Chief Justice was the main point, was the focal point, of the pro-democracy movement here in Pakistan. So why should your government disobey the verdict or the orders of the court when it comes to reopening the allegations against your President?
Rehman Malik: Well, you have put a thesis before me, not a question. First of all, you see the background. When the present Prime Minister took over the government, I mean even his candidature was announced and he addressed the Parliament, and the first order which was given was to release the, make the judges free. So our love, respect for the independent judiciary is very much there. The present Governor, if you see the footage, his head being, you know, with dandas and all that was there, you saw all that. Then, when it came to restoration of the present judiciary, it was nobody else, but it was our government. The people have been making a lot of stories around but I exactly know how they were restored because the first discussion which I had was with Prime Minister Gilani. It was midnight when I called the President of Pakistan and as I needed to see him, what was happening on the long march. I went to the President and then the meeting took place between the Prime Minister, the President, and some of the stakeholders, and it was decided that they should be restored. So again, it is our achievement. And rather, this is our government, in fact, which restored the present judiciary. Now, coming onto certain issues, where there is a perception, perhaps, that we are not obeying orders of the Supreme Court. This Ministry is dealing with a number of cases, a number of petitions on a daily basis, and my standing instruction to the Secretary of the Interior, and all the departments is that there should be no disobeying of the Supreme Court. Any instructions which come from the Supreme Court are obeyed in letter and spirit. I have faced two contempts and the media has seen it. I think that when you go and explain, and you have to hold judges at the highest position, because judiciary is very important, independent judiciary is very important for the country. Now, they have served the contempt on the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister is consulting the legal team, and this is in another way an opportunity to clear the miscommunication, misunderstanding, misperception in the media. Now, a simple question. Now, you have got FBI in your country. Right? And it is, as per the given charter of duties and the rules and regulations, your Prime Minister even cannot interfere in the affairs of the FBI as far as the investigation is concerned.
Rehman Malik: CBI. It is equivalent to that. So, quote unquote, "CBI cannot be interfered in the investigation by any executive authority." Now, there are two agencies in Pakistan, one is NAB, National Accountability Bureau, and the other is, of course, the FIA, Federal Investigation Agency. NAB was created during General Musharraf's time. Previously it was Ehtesab Bureau, headed by Saifur Rehman. Of course, the then Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, yes at that time, the Accountability Bureau was under the Prime Minister, then it was under President Musharraf, but the present Prime Minister has actually transferred all the powers to the Law Ministry.
NDTV: So you are saying that he doesn't have the powers?
Rehman Malik: I am just coming, I am just coming on the very important point because this needs clarification. Now, as far as NAB is concerned, it is an autonomous body. It governs under NAB Ordinance and Section 13 of the NAB is very clear, no interference from anyone. Now, if this is the investigation, and he cannot get a person arrested by NAB released, how can he interfere in that?
NDTV: So, you are saying the Prime Minister does not have the powers on this case?
Rehman Malik: I am coming on that. So, when NAB is independent in its investigations, in its actions, so interfering in NAB affairs will be another offence. Kind of another offence if he does that. So, what offence has he done? Nothing. I mean, if the summary is put up to him and is being examined, it is not an offence. But what is important? Now this matter actually needs to be examined in totality to see the legal position, administrative position, the role of the Prime Minister in it. I would like to say, categorically state rather, that the Prime Minister has nothing to do with the affairs of NAB. This matter, which you are referring to, is being dealt with by NAB. But go back to the history. What happened in this case which is being referred. It was being tried by a judge by the name of Justice Qayyum. The then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif called the then Chief Justice of Punjab, and the trial judge was called by Saifur Rehman, asking him to give maximum dose to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and President Zardari. So, in follow-up, yes they were convicted. But when that tape scandal surfaced the three judges had to resign. Now, it is the same case. Now, if you see the mala fide intention of the then government actually implicating President Zardari in a false case, and to get the information left, right, and put a kind of turmoil, put a kind of blame game. They implicated him in a fake drug case. Nobody less than the former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat said that it is a fake case. So, it is a fake case, mishandled, and of course undue influence was used on the judiciary. Now, actually what we are trying to tell. And naturally we will go to the Court requesting please investigate this. The basis of this case was wrong. Then, all the accused who were involved have been, during the trial in the court, honourably acquitted. So that means that there is nothing in it. Now, the question arises, writing a letter. Now this is up to the NAB, but of course the stand of our party is that the main accused in this case was Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Madam Nusrat Bhutto. Now, both are no more in this world. Now, when the main accused is dead, automatically the case is gone. Now, if you write, our party says this means the trial of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's grave. So, you know, this is a question which is coming from the workers of our party. But I would not like to say much on it because the matter is sub judice in the Court. But I have just given the facts. So, I think that appearing before the Court is an opportunity for the Prime Minister and the government to explain its position. So I think it will be clear and all those who are thinking that on Thursday the government will go, no, sorry, it is not going to happen. These are just the ill wishes of the opponents.
NDTV: Let me understand, very simply, what you have argued. The gist of it is, a) this investigation is not under the Prime Minister's Office, and b) these charges, you believe, are false. The basis of this case is false, and that is what your government will be saying in Court. In other words, you are not going to be writing that letter to Swiss authorities reopening the case, because you don't believe that the allegation is fair according to you?
Rehman Malik: How can I comment whether the letter will be written or letter will not be written? Because NAB is not under me. So it's going to be the whole, sole prerogative of the Chairman, NAB. The decision is going to be theirs.
NDTV: And if he wants to write the letter? Will the government interfere in the process?
Rehman Malik: In fact, if you see the record, as far as my knowledge goes, the Chairman NAB did write a letter to Switzerland. And if you have the video footage of the Attorney General of Switzerland, it will be totally clear. They said, "Well, the case has been closed." And there has been nothing, obviously, and the Constitution of Pakistan, if you read, it gives immunity to the President. And they have already said that "Your President stands immune to that. Because of the immunity we will not move forward."
NDTV: Okay. You are saying this about this particular case, but there is another case that has grabbed the headlines, and that is the Memogate controversy.
Rehman Malik: Well, I call it fasaadgate. I don't call it Memogate because a memo is an official letter, which was never there. It's a fake and one has to see who is the author of that. If you see the Financial Times, and you see the last four paragraphs in that, what Mr. Mansoor wrote, it is so much dirt, negativity against our ISI, against the Army. So somebody must have prompted him to write that.
NDTV: Who do you think prompted him?
Rehman Malik: Well, that's what I want to know. That's what I want to question him about when he comes. That's why I offered yesterday that I will definitely, given the situation, he has to explain. Number one, on whose behalf did he actually write so much against our agencies who are fighting a war on terror, helping the world, helping Pakistan? Number two, in a very, very firm way he stated that he was the one who had Benazir's first government thrown out of power. So, the people of Pakistan have the right. The Pakistan People's Party workers are asking that how can he be that powerful that he can overthrow an elected Prime Minister of a country. So, he has to explain to the people of Pakistan, either through the Commission or some other means that how did he actually throw the government.
NDTV: He says he has received death threats from people.
Rehman Malik: Well, no. First let me tell. I will cover that point later.
NDTV: Will you arrest him if he comes here?
Rehman Malik: No, no. First let me clear what I wanted to say. So the people of Pakistan want the answer as to how did he overthrow the government of Benazir Bhutto? Now, if you or anybody else, whether a foreigner or a Pakistani, tries or even intends, or takes any action to overthrow a legitimately-elected government, it comes under treason. Section 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan deals with that. So obviously, we are examining that, as to who are the characters with him and how did he become so powerful that he overthrew the elected government. So these questions he will have to answer. I have asked my people to examine this matter. All the material has been collected and definitely we will be examining, looking into all aspects. And I think he has option except to respond to that. Now, as far as the arrest is concerned, no. The Supreme Court is dealing with the case. The Commission is also looking into it. We have no such intentions but we have all the intention to examine him. So examining, registering a case, and arresting, they are all three different things.
NDTV: But if you are charging him with treason, he may think that he will get arrested?
Rehman Malik: Well, we will give him a chance to speak when he comes. We will take up the matter with the Commission. Whichever forum is required, we will produce our record to them that this is what he has done. So let them decide on the matter.
NDTV: Now, you say that Mansoor Ijaz has made very critical statements about your agencies. But isn't it true - and this is what has led to the current crisis - that the Pakistani Army and the ISI has believed the authenticity of what he says is the memo that he was asked to carry? And in fact your Prime Minister, in an interview with Chinese media, actually went on record to say that the Army and the ISI overstepped their limits by going directly to the Supreme Court.
Rehman Malik: Well, the Prime Minister has given a statement in Parliament. Now, as far as the ISI is concerned, and them believing in him, I don't think so. If it is so, he has written so much against the ISI and the military, do you think they are going to believe? No. In fact, ISI is trying to clear the situation. There is an allegation, there is a report, where an Ambassador of a country has been implicated. Now, that is why I do not want to say much on it, but let me assure you that at the end of the day, you will see this Memogate being nothing but a fabrication to build up a story. And if you see the past history of the gentleman, whether it is Iran, or it is Pakistan, or going as an envoy of Bill Clinton to Kashmir, all those issues are very much there. Then, of course, I should not say about the personal life of people, but some members of the gentleman have approached us from New York. They wanted to come and appear against him.
NDTV: Who are these people?
Rehman Malik: I cannot disclose that for the security of those people. But obviously, the family members who may have some more information on him. So we will consider that.
NDTV: But isn't it also true that there is a very public battle between your Army today and the civilian government, because the Army has taken, in a sense, offense to what was written in this alleged memo? And in the Supreme Court, in your country's Supreme Court, they have backed the authenticity of this memo? And that is what has created this crisis?
Rehman Malik: Well, I will not say much because it is sub-judice in the court of law, but there is no battle. Yes, the battle is of the media. The perceptions are being created but you have seen yesterday the President meeting the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff. The day before, he met the Army Chief, and then in the DCC meeting the Army chief is there, all Chiefs are there. We are all working on one page. But if the media wants to make good news out of, they want to create bad news, but I think we are going through a transition, both in the media and as a democracy, and in many institutions. I think that with the passage of time Barkha, we will become wiser, and hopefully these kinds of hypes which are created and then termed to be turmoil, and the people become so dictative and say, "Well, with effect from this date, the government is not going to be there", all such judgments are coming from people, from the media. So, I hope that the people refrain from this. We are an elected government. We are working for the benefit of the people of Pakistan. The institutions are working under the domain of the Constitution, and hopefully when I meet you next time, the clouds will be much clearer. And they are going to be clearer I tell you.
NDTV: One last question on this issue before I come to India and Pakistan. On this issue, the Prime Minister, Yosuf Raza Gilani, did say that "There cannot be a state within a state". Many people thought that that reference was to the Army and the ISI?
Rehman Malik: No, I think the inference can be drawn to anything. But I think that a sitting Prime Minister would like to be independent and whatever orders he gives have got to be conveyed. These things keep on happening. In India, you have seen that so many things are happening. There are so many allegations against your ministers. There is so much in-house fighting. So this will continue in Pakistan too. So I don't think that we should give it hype.
NDTV: So you don't think that there are any chances of any coup of any kind?
Rehman Malik: Well, as far as my knowledge goes, my interaction with all stakeholders, I can assure you that there is going to be no coup in this country. You know, we are lucky to have the leadership at present situation which believes in reconciliation, believes in rule of law, and believes in the Constitution of Pakistan. And according to my information, I assure you that I am well informed as the Interior Minister of Pakistan, there is no such thing, the Army is doing its job, the Supreme Court is doing its job, the executives are doing their job. Yes, there is a difference of opinion, but that difference of opinion should not be termed as a clash in the way that the media is terming it.
NDTV: Okay, now let's just briefly touch upon India and Pakistan as well. I know that there was a certain momentum that had built up again in the equation. But now, I am sure, many people watching from New Delhi are worried that in this environment, when there is so much domestic uncertainty in Pakistan, can the dialogue actually make any real progress?
Rehman Malik: Well, if you take that as a barometer, then Pakistan should not have thought about going into dialogue with India, because there was so much turmoil. It should not become a negative factor if there are some political ups and downs. So I am sure that the Indian people, my friends, brothers and sisters, the authorities in India should not be worried about it. In political life, in democracy, it happens. It's not dictatorship. Now the people have an opinion. But if the opinion of the people is expressed by certain individuals, certain political parties, it should not be taken negatively by India. I think that India is not doing justice to both the countries if it is thinking on those terms. Number one, we have started this dialogue and it has progressed very well. And therefore, the momentum should not be broken. It should continue with the same spirit, with the same determination, because I feel that friendship between India and Pakistan will lead to prosperity in both the countries. So I hope that the Indian authorities do not take this present, in your words, turmoil and according to me, a difference of opinion. Political differences and media hype should not come into the relationship between India and Pakistan. Despite that, what you said, Pakistan is struggling hard, with the struggle of the past one-and-a-half year. You know, there was a message from India that we can do a video conference instead of sending officers from here, but naturally our law does not permit, the Evidence Act does not permit.
NDTV: And now that the Judicial Commission is cleared?
Rehman Malik: Now the Judicial Commission has allowed. We have requested, under the direction of the Court, to the concerned Indian authorities that please inform us, number one, who is going to be the judge there, who will be, in fact, looking after this side, which is the location, and what is the date that is convenient for us to come there.
NDTV: We believe that your people are coming in February in context of the Mumbai attacks.
Rehman Malik: I, in fact, spoke to our Ambassador in New Delhi yesterday. He was in Kolkata. He told me that they will respond to it very soon, but I do not have any official information on it.
NDTV: You do not have any official dates yet?
Rehman Malik: No. The moment I get any official intimation, I have already given my commitment to Indian authorities, that within one week from the date that has been intimated to us, we will immediately send our Judicial Commission there. And while we are waiting for the Judicial Commission, the trial is already on in the Adiala Jail in camera. So I think that we should be working more towards the visas. People from both sides face problems at the moment. People who have gone for more than 65 years without seeing their loved ones want to do so. You have seen that over the last week alone, I have released a number of fishermen, over 150. A similar situation is there on the borders. Whenever even a small thing happens, we co-operate. So, I think that we should continue at the same pace. Secretaries from both sides discussed certain visa issues, border crossing, fishermen, among other points. One of the points was that there will be a meeting between the two Interior Ministers before Home Secretaries from the two sides meet. We are awaiting a response from the Indian authorities on that, as we have to go according to the plan of whatever is agreed. But I am not putting it as a condition. It should still be continued. It should continue.
NDTV: So you are looking forward to meeting your counterpart in Delhi?
Rehman Malik: Of course, either I go, I cordially invite him to Pakistan. Let him come again to Pakistan. Rather, in addition to what we are doing officially, I have invited him to be the Chief Guest in one of the hockey matches where we have invited the Indian hockey team. So I think that we have to go.
NDTV: And have you got a response from him yet?
Rehman Malik: Well, I am inviting him now.
NDTV: Oh, through us. Okay.
Rehman Malik: In fact, I sent the message through my Ambassador. I haven't got a response. I would rather invite, not just my counterpart Mr Chidambaram, but even the Prime Minister of India. I think that there should be frequent visits. Why should we become so bureaucratic that everything has to go through so many channels? Why shouldn't the Prime Minister of India one day decide to come and have dinner with Prime Minister Gilani and Prime Minister Gilani should one day decide that, "Okay, on one day I am coming for dinner"? Let's have some informal meetings. Let's go beyond the dictated policies because that is going to be good for Pakistan and India. I can see on Twitter how Indian brothers and sisters respond to certain questions and certain responses of our leaders, our people, and even myself. I think that this is a time at which people on both sides of the border want friendship and that is what the leadership has to realise. That is what had been realised. Similar emotions were there when the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India met in the Maldives. The determination was there.
NDTV: What about the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status? MFN had been approved, in principle, by your government but it seems to be stuck. Is there a fear that radical voices like Hafiz Saeed, who have opposed it, could stall it?
Rehman Malik: Well, it has not been stalled. There are always people for and against issues. Let us not forget that we have the Kashmir issue, where people have a certain mindset based on whatever has been discussed in the past. There is the water issue. There are a number of other issues. Now, what is important is that, in the given situation, what has been decided has to go forward. Now to maintain it at the same tempo, if your people are thinking that the government is in turmoil, we are not going to talk to them, and they are just watching, this may break the tempo. So, it will send wrong signals. It is further sending wrong signals.
NDTV: But do you believe that it will go through?
Rehman Malik: Now, you have to compare. As far as our side is concerned, we are advancing positively without bringing any negativity in it. But, on that side, if the delay is there in certain matters because of the political situation created, or it has come through, or it is in transition, I think that no negativity should come in. Rather, both the countries should work together so that people on both sides benefit in terms of trade, tourism, culture, and moving across with little more ease.
NDTV: Do you think that the MFN status will come through Sir?
Rehman Malik: Well, it is already there.
NDTV: I know, but it hasn't yet gone through its final stages.
Rehman Malik: I don't discuss things on suppositions. What has been decided has been decided? When somebody breaks it or takes it away, then we will talk about it.
NDTV: Last question. You know for India, there are some, like you have mentioned, Pakistan's sensitivities, water, Kashmir. For India, the sensitivities become, for example, the 26/11 trial which you have spoken about or people like Dawood Ibrahim. First on the 26/11 trial, I want to ask you....last time when we met, you said that the government is trying very hard to get the voice samples of the accused but the Court has to respond. Are you a little frustrated with the slow pace of the Court?
Rehman Malik: Well, I will not say I am frustrated because when the law prohibits to do something, which I clearly stated last time and explained that in the Evidence Act of Pakistan and even the identity of the accused is only the fingerprint, so when we went to the Court, the Court has declined. So we have gone to the higher Court. Yes, delay is not liked by anybody, but at the same time you have to see somebody's actual determination, and you have to see the intentions of the people. The intention of the government is to bring all the culprits involved in that terrorist act to justice. And we are doing our best. The delay is not on our part. The delay is because of judicial procedure, which is, of course, cumbersome. And of course both the governments have resolved now and once this Judicial Commission does its job, everything should be alright.
NDTV: In conclusion, we are looking forward to having you in India. Thank you so much.
Rehman Malik: It will be my great pleasure and honour to be in India. Inshallah. Thank you.