Oppose efforts aimed at derailing democracy: Pak PM



Islamabad: As Pakistan moves towards its next general election, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Wednesday warned that "anti-democratic forces and anti-state elements" were bent on creating a situation detrimental to democracy and stability.

Addressing a meeting of his cabinet, Ashraf asked the people to be prepared to oppose all efforts aimed at derailing democracy in the country. He also rejected cleric Tahir-ul- Qadri's demand for dissolving the Election Commission, saying it was unconstitutional.

"While our government is sincerely engaged in the efforts to strengthen democracy, anti-democratic forces and anti-state elements are also busy in creating situations that are not only detrimental to democracy but also to economic growth and stability," he said.

"This is a very dangerous trend and there is, therefore, a strong need to rise against these disruptive forces so as to move forward," Ashraf said without naming the forces that were intent on harming democracy.

Without naming Tahir-ul-Qadri, who recently led a protest aimed at ousting the government and implementing electoral reforms, Ashraf said: "The demand to dissolve the Election Commission of Pakistan is extra-constitutional. Neither the Election Commission, nor its members, can be removed as their appointment was made in accordance with the Constitution."

He added: "I want to convey a message to the anti- democracy elements that we shall not succumb to their intrigues. We shall not let anyone derail democracy. We gave and are ready to give any kind of sacrifice for the country and democracy."

Over the past few weeks, Islamabad's political circles have been abuzz with speculation that elements backed by the powerful security establishment are working to oust the Pakistan People's Party-led government so that a caretaker administration of technocrats can be put in place for the next two to three years. PTI Senior PPP leader Raza Rabbani warned of a conspiracy being hatched against democracy earlier this week.

Many leaders of the PPP and main opposition PML-N have accused Tahir-ul-Qadri, who led thousands of followers in a sit-in protest near parliament earlier this month, of acting at the behest of the security establishment to delay the polls and prolong the term of a caretaker set-up.

The premier spoke about the threats to democracy a day after he and President Asif Ali Zardari chaired a meeting of senior leaders of the PPP and its allies to discuss the dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies and a date for the upcoming polls.

Sources said several proposals were discussed at the meeting, which continued for over three hours last night, but no final decisions were made.

However, the meeting agreed that the national and provincial assemblies would be dissolved a day or two before they completed their five-year term on March 16, the sources said.

In his address to the cabinet, Ashraf said, "As per directions of the President, the caretaker set-up at the centre and the provinces would be formed in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the Law after proper consultation with all the stakeholders."

He said the national and provincial assemblies would complete their tenure successfully in the next few weeks and the government is committed to hold free, fair and transparent elections in accordance with the Constitution.

PTI