Gilani puts up a brave front; all eyes on Pak SC

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that it is for the first time that Army has been made accountable to the House.

Islamabad: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani
on Friday said he would not seek a vote of confidence from
Parliament against the backdrop of an escalating row with the
judiciary and military as his government did not want any
clash between state institutions.

"I have no need for a vote of confidence," Gilani told a
special session of the National Assembly or lower house of
parliament that was convened by the ruling coalition after the
Supreme Court warned action could be taken against the
President and premier for not reopening high-profile graft

In a speech that was very critical of the opposition,
Gilani said his government did not need the opposition`s
support to tackle the crisis caused by the apex court`s order
to reopen graft cases that were scrapped under the National
Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty issued by the
previous military regime.

The NRO was scrapped by the apex court in 2009.
"The Leader of Opposition may think we have come here to
be saved from the NRO by the opposition. We have not come here
for the NRO, we have not come to get an endorsement from the
House for NRO," Gilani said.

"Nor do we need support from you to be saved from the
military and we have not come for a clash of institutions. We
have also not come to be `shaheeds` (martyrs) as the
opposition believes," he said.

The House could debate any demand for a vote of
no-confidence or constitutional amendments to cut short the
tenure of parliament or the Prime Minister, Gilani said.

However, he cautioned the opposition not to approach
"other institutions" to decide matters like the term of the

Gilani`s remarks were an apparent reference to the
petition filed by the main opposition PML-N in the apex court
seeking a probe into the alleged memo that had sought US help
to stave off a possible military coup in Pakistan last year.

Gilani has insisted that the memo should be investigated
by a parliamentary panel, and not the apex court.

A defiant Gilani blamed former military ruler Pervez
Musharraf for the NRO, saying the "presumed beneficiaries" of
the graft amnesty were being punished while the architect of
the NRO was making plans to return to Pakistan from self-exile
and asking the people to welcome him back.

The Premier acknowledged that his government had made
"mistakes" but said democracy should not be punished for this.

He said it would be written in history that the Army and
Inter-Services Intelligence chiefs had been held accountable
in parliament for the first time during his tenure.

"Parliament should decide whether there should be
democracy or dictatorship in this country. If we make
mistakes, democracy should not be punished," he said.

Gilani repeatedly said he was not against any
institution, including the judiciary and the military, and
recalled his role in restoring the judges, including Supreme
Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who were sacked by

The Premier warned the opposition PML-N that it would not
gain from the ouster of his government.

In the past too, the opposition had not gained when the
Pakistan People`s Party`s governments were removed through
unconstitutional means, he pointed out.

Gilani said the ruling coalition would move a resolution
that is aimed at strengthening democracy and Parliament.
"The resolution is not against any institution, including
the judiciary and the Army," he said.

The opposition was free to make any changes it wanted in
this resolution, he added.

Later, the resolution was introduced in the House by
Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, a key leader
of the ruling coalition.

With the session being adjourned for the Friday prayers,
the National Assembly will vote on the resolution on Monday,
officials said.

The resolution said the trichotomy of powers should be
fully respected and all institutions should operate strictly
within the constitution.

It called on the House to endorse the government`s
efforts to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions.

The resolution further said the strengthening of
democratic institutions is essential for democracy and that
Parliament is the repository of people’s trust.
Sovereignty lies with the people of Pakistan, it added.

Analysts said the resolution is aimed at strengthening
the government`s hands in its standoff with the judiciary over
the reopening of high-profile graft cases and with the
military over the Memogate scandal.

The National Assembly will vote on the resolution on the
same day that a Supreme Court-appointed commission resumes its
proceedings on the memo issue and a larger bench of the apex
court takes up the case for reviving graft cases against
President Asif Ali Zardari.

"This resolution was brought to the House to strengthen
democratic values. The Prime Minister clearly said that we
could have differences with individuals and the government`s
function could be criticised... but the parliamentarians have
the people’s confidence. We should unite to ensure the
trichotomy of power," Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan
told reporters outside Parliament.