President Pervez Musharraf is "irrelevant" to Pakistan and its people did not appreciate the US' support for the country's military dictators, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said.
Gilani said he had taken up these issues during his recent visit to Washington and the administration of President George W Bush had shown its willingness to work closely with him as the head of the new politically elected government.
In an interview with The News daily, Gilani refuted suggestions that his US visit had been unsuccessful claiming it had helped Pakistan to "change the aggressive tone of Americans" as they are now talking of working closely with Islamabad to deal with the unrest in its tribal areas instead of "invading" the region.
On being asked by the US leadership about the "effectiveness" of Musharraf, Gilani said he had told them the President was only a "ceremonial" head of state as the real power to run the government is with the prime minister.
Gilani also said he had told the Americans that Musharraf is "irrelevant" to Pakistan as there is a parliamentary system where the prime minister is the "real boss". He also told the US leaders that the people of Pakistan did not appreciate them because they had been supporting the country's military dictators. Gilani defended his decision to visit the US within three months of assuming office, saying it was wrong to assume that he had undertaken the trip at a wrong time.
However, Gilani expressed "feelings of hurt" at the hostile treatment he received from the Pakistani media at a time when, he said, the American press was writing good things about him. He said, according to his perception, his visit was "very successful" as he managed to convey a clear message to the Bush administration about what actually was in the best interests of Pakistan. Asked about a strong perception that he had failed to achieve any major breakthrough during his visit, Gilani said this was a "wrong" perception as he had done very well during his meetings with the Bush administration. He said many major decisions were taken during these meetings. "Even the Americans were terming my visit to the US very successful, so how could one claim that it was a failed visit?" he asked.