Would rather face jail than death sentence: Gilani

Last Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 22:33

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf
Raza Gilani on Thursday said he would rather go to jail for
committing contempt of court than violate the Constitution by
acting on the Supreme Court`s ultimatum to reopen graft cases
against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Gilani`s remarks at two public events in Bahawalpur region
of Punjab province marked an escalation in the standoff
between the PPP-led government and the Supreme Court, which
has been pushing the premier to revive cases of alleged money
laundering against the President in Switzerland.

"If I write (to the Swiss authorities), then I violate the
Constitution because parliament has given the President
immunity in Pakistan and abroad.

"The punishment for violating the Constitution is
mentioned in Article 6, which is the death sentence," Gilani
told a gathering at Malsi in Bahawalpur district.

On the other hand, Gilani said, he had been charged with
contempt for failing to act on the apex court`s order and
could face a six-month prison term.

"Tell me, should I violate the Constitution and write (to
the Swiss authorities) and face the death sentence?. ..Which is
better? a six- month jail term or the death sentence?" he
asked.

Gilani raised the same issue while addressing students
during a convocation at Bahawalpur Islamia University, and at
both places the audience said he should face a six-month
prison term.

"I have already served five years in prison earlier and I
can serve six more months. What difference does it make?" the
premier told the gathering at Malsi.

At the Bahawalpur Islamia University, students shouted
that he should not write to the Swiss authorities to revive
the cases.

Gilani said he had decided that he would not take any
unconstitutional step.
The charge of contempt against him would undermine
parliament, which gives immunity to the President, he added.

The premier said he had once declared himself the brother
of slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and would never think
of betraying the party.

"Would the Prime Minister stab his own President in the
back?" he asked.

The PPP and its leadership had made many sacrifices for
democracy, he said.

"Had there been no democracy, there would be no free
judiciary," he remarked.

He said he had always stressed that parliament must
complete its tenure irrespective of whether the Prime Minister
remains in office.

Gilani accused the PPP`s detractors of hatching
conspiracies on issues like the mysterious memo that had
sought US help to stave off a feared military coup in Pakistan
last year.

However, the party had succeeded in bypolls and elections
to the Senate or upper house of parliament despite these
conspiracies, he said.

The Supreme Court last week set March 21 as the deadline
for the Prime Minister to approach Swiss authorities to reopen
the cases against Zardari.

The court will resume hearing the contempt case against
Gilani the same day.

The apex court recently indicted Gilani for contempt after
he refused to act on repeated orders to reopen the cases
against Zardari.

The court has been pressuring the government to revive the
cases since December 2009, when it struck down the National
Reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty issued by former
military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

The government has refused to act, saying the President
enjoys complete immunity from prosecution within Pakistan and
abroad.

PTI




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