Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has said that he and the country's other top leaders were the actual targets in the recent suicide bomb attack on the five-star Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that left at least 53 people dead and scores injured.
"I was supposed to be there with my prime minister, with my speaker, with a lot of us. Just by chance that it was changed," he said in an interview with Fox News when asked if he believed that he was the target in the deadly September 20 bombing.
"All of us, all the Parliament, the people, all of democracy was the target. We were all supposed to be there, because it was the Speaker's dinner. We were sitting at the Speakers' dinner just a stone's throw away from that same place. We were in the PM house on the lawn when we heard the bang," Zardari said.
The Pakistani leader also brushed off the notion that Islamabad's relations with Washington was the reason for the bomb attack.
"No, I don't think so. I think that is just an excuse to give themselves importance and to say -- bring some legitimacy to the war that they are fighting. When they say that they are targeting America, if they would have said they were targeting us, obviously the people turn against them, because we have populist people. So they can't say us, they have to say we managed to get 150 foreign citizens, which is not a fact at all. There were no marines in there," Zardari said.
The Taliban is the "enemy" of Pakistan, Zardari said. "Yes. Why would they take out the Marriott hotel if they weren't?... They're my enemies that killed my wife (Benazir Bhutto), the mother of my children. They're the enemies of democracy, and they're the enemies of Pakistan."
Zardari also said the operations of American special forces inside Pakistan were not going off well with the people of his country and that these kinds of actions only give a setback to the impetus for the war on terror.
"It wasn't received well, and it doesn't help the war on terror, because the first definition, the way we want to deal with the war is to win the hearts and minds of people, and then get the people on your side, alienate them from the terrorists, rather than give them support," Zardari said.
"It sets me back in getting my impetus of the new way of dealing with the war. And the new way of dealing with the war is to get the people involved, to make them to realise that making their area unsafe and allowing them to be there is a danger to themselves," he said.
Zardari said he only discussed the issue "generally" with US President George W Bush during their recent meeting in New York. "Not specifically, but we discussed it generally. And he agreed with it himself. He said it himself that he believes in the sovereignty of Pakistan and the sovereign state has a right. So I didn't need to discuss. He was already aware of the issue," Zardari said.
"Cross-border fightings can happen, friendly fire can happen. Even in an exercise you have casualties of friendly fire. So one or two incidents or accidents can happen," Zardari said, making the point that it is "not" a big deal as journalists have made it out to be.
"As the journalists make it sound -- no, it's not... I am disturbed in the sense that I would appreciate it if it doesn't happen," he said.