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Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani talks to Jim Middleton
Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani speaks about his country's relations with Australia, the US and other issues it faces.

A Taliban insurgency, a hostile judiciary and a military far from averse to staging a coup.

Throw in a weak economy and an unpopular alliance with the United States and it's a surprise the government of Yousuf Raza Gilani has survived in Pakistan this long.

Mr Gilani has been Pakistan's Prime Minister since 2008 and so far he has survived every threat thrown at him.

Mr Gilani spoke to Jim Middleton on Asia Pacific Focus.
JIM MIDDLETON: Prime Minister, welcome to the program.


JIM MIDDLETON: A bilateral question first. As you know, Australia recently agreed to start selling uranium to India but not to Pakistan. I wonder what you think that says about the Australian Government's attitude to Pakistan and to your nuclear program?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: In fact, these are bilateral relations, and India and Australia have bilateral relations with each other, they are both sovereign countries, therefore we have nothing to object about it. But at the same time we did talk to the world community for the balance of there should be a stability and there should be a balance in the region.

Therefore, it is extremely important to have a balance in the region, and that is the reason we - I once gave a statement. But I have nothing to do with the bilateral respects, they are both sovereign countries.

JIM MIDDLETON: Does it suggest Australia does not believe Pakistan's civilian nuclear program is as secure as India's?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Our nuclear program of Pakistan is extremely in - it has a very good command and control system. And it is extremely in safe hands, and therefore I think there is nothing to worry about our nuclear program.

JIM MIDDLETON: A general question now: Pakistan does face very many challenges. Of all of them, which do you think poses the greatest threat to Pakistan's future?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Pakistan strategically is located in a place which is considered to be the frontline state fighting war on extremism and terrorism. And I think, because of the geographical situation, the biggest challenge for Pakistan is extremism and terrorism, and we are fighting the war on extremism and terrorism, and that is the biggest threat.

JIM MIDDLETON: One of the aspects is the war over the border in Afghanistan. Talks are now under way between the United States and the Taliban. Can there be a stable and prosperous Pakistan without peace in Afghanistan?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Naturally not, because we want - the only desire for us is to see Pakistan stable, sovereign, independent and prosperous. And if there is a stability in Afghanistan, naturally there will be stability in Pakistan.

And we are a part of the solution and we are not a part of the problem. And therefore I think both the countries suffer a lot and we should work together to fight against a common enemy. The whole world realises that the only solution lies in the reconciliation or a political settlement. And I appreciate if they are talking to the Taliban, I also appeal to the Talibans and all stakeholders to have a reconciliation and to help Afghanistan.

JIM MIDDLETON: Pakistan's anger, if not fury, over the American cross border incursion which killed so many Pakistani soldiers back in November, that anger appears to have subsided somewhat. Are relations with Washington now on their way back to normal?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: We really want to improve our relations with the United States. It is an important country. We do not want to spoil our relations, but at the same time we are working as a partners for a common goal. And that is to fight against extremism and terrorism. Therefore, it should be based on mutual respect and mutual interest.

JIM MIDDLETON: When you talk about mutual respect and mutual interest, how does that sit with the unilateral drone attacks which the United States has been running within Pakistan, with increasing frequency over the years, which are seen by many of your citizens as a gross violation of your sovereignty?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: That's true. Because people did take it as not respect to the people of Pakistan and not respecting the sovereignty of Pakistan. Therefore, we are discussing with them and we have referred this matter to the parliamentary committee on national security. They have already prepared the recommendations for new terms of engagement and new terms of cooperation between the United States, ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

JIM MIDDLETON: As a matter of fact, Prime Minister, do you think the drone attacks have been successful in decapitating the insurgent leadership, in getting rid of their leaders?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: In fact, whether they are successful or they're not successful is beside the point. The matter is of the sovereignty of the country. And therefore we have a great cooperation in defence and in intelligence, there should be more credible and actionable information passed on to Pakistan.

We can act our own selves. Therefore there is no need, because you cannot win a war without the support of the masses. There is no military solution for anything. Therefore, to win a war you need the entire support and the backing of the people of Pakistan.

JIM MIDDLETON: Turning to another subject, it is only a matter of weeks since you were highly critical of your own military and of Pakistan's intelligence services. You suggested that a conspiracy was afoot and that Pakistan's generals were behaving like a state within a state. Do you think the risk of a return to military rule is gone now forever or has it simply receded into the background for a while?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: No, we - that was for some time this thing happened because too many things were taking place at the same time. But since, after the inquiry, the actions have been taken and now there's no need to be worried about, and now we all are on the same page.

JIM MIDDLETON: You have suggested that the nation's military should be accountable to your parliament. The realty is that is not going to happen, and leaves the nation's civilian leaders always vulnerable to the whims of what is a very powerful military in your country, does it not?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Yes, we are proud of that have a powerful military, but the powerful military does not mean that you should think that now the civilian government is weak. The civilian government is in fact becoming more strong day by day, because the military is here to assist the civil government.

JIM MIDDLETON: You have just had upper house elections in Pakistan, the government increased its majority. Does this give any indication as to what may happen when you go to the polls in the months ahead?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Naturally, by winning the majority in the senate, that shows that we are moving in the right directions for a victory.

JIM MIDDLETON: There has been a lot of international publicity in recent times given to the challenge coming from Imran Khan. Do you see him as a formidable threat to you when your elections are held?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: He is nowhere near.

JIM MIDDLETON:It's as simple as that, is it?

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: It is as simple as that, because in the upper house, with my coalition party we have two thirds majority. And with my coalition parties we have two thirds majority in the national assembly. And he boycotted previously and boycotted later, and then he agreed to contest some of the by elections. When losing the by elections, now they have again decided not to contest the elections and they also made an appeal that the people should not come to vote. Despite that, even the turn out was even better than previously.

JIM MIDDLETON: Prime Minister, thank you very much for being so generous with your time. Thank you.

YOUSUF RAZA GILANI: Thank you very much. Thank you.
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