Gilani takes army head on

Yousuf Raza Gilani and president zardariISLAMABAD: A panicked prime minister Thursday said plots were being drawn to send his government packing as he delivered an unprecedented tirade against the army, vowing not to bow to forces at work behind the scenes and denying the government was subservient to the military command.

Confirmation form beleaguered Yousuf Raza Gilani of fears about his government stood in stark contrast to his recent assertions that government and the armed forces were on same page on all the issues, including the memo scandal that is at the centre of the current political storm.
“I want to make it clear today that conspiracies are being hatched here to pack up the elected government,” Gilani told a gathering at the National Arts Gallery, without naming anyone. “But we will continue to fight for the rights of people of Pakistan whether or not we remain in the government,” Gilani said, declaring himself the country’s longest serving premier, with 45 months on the job.

But heading off questions in parliament, he took aim at the army after the defence ministry told the Supreme Court “it does not exercise any operational control” over the armed forces or ISI intelligence agency.“If they say that they are not under the ministry of defence, then we should get out of this slavery, then this parliament has no importance, this system has no importance, then you are not sovereign,” he told lawmakers. “Nobody is above the law, all the institutions are subservient to the parliament,” Gilani insisted.

“All the members of the parliament are elected representatives that’s why every institution is answerable to the parliament… If we can not protect the rights of the people then what business we have here (parliament)… If any institution says I am a state within state, it is not acceptable,” he said. “We remained under Indian rule in the past… If we have to live as slaves, then there is no importance of this house. It would be wrong to say that these institutions (army and ISI) do not come under the ministry of defence,” he said.

Appearing to lose patience, he said the government had stood by the security services over a storm of American pressure over the Osama bin Laden killing, the November 26 Nato attack and the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. “In OBL case, we also stood by the establishment. Though we had some differences but we supported them. After Mumbai attacks, we also supported them and even fired General (Mahmud) Durrani,” he said and added the nature of issues had changed from the tenure of General Musharraf and now the challenges were different.

“In the worst circumstances we doubled their salaries. They (army) have to be accountable to parliament… We are being asked by the judicial commission (examining the May 2 US raid that killed bin Laden raid and how the al-Qaeda leader lived in Pakistan undetected) about issuance of visas (to Americans). But I want to ask how was someone (bin Laden) living here for the past six years? On what type of visa was he living here? Why was security not taken care of, if he entered Pakistan without a visa?”

This fiery speech by the prime minister at the assembly and his talking of conspiracies against his government clearly indicate that the government is in direct confrontation with the military establishment over the key issue of memogate scandal. It also shows that the impression which the government tried to create of Gen Kayani’s meeting with the PM and his phone call to President Zardari that all the differences have been largely removed was incorrect. – Nation