ISLAMABAD: While the government made hectic efforts on Friday to woo the opposition parties to support its resolution in favour of democracy and parliament, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said the government would prefer to go to the people rather than ask anyone to “save us from the NRO or the army”, suggesting that the resolution was not tabled to protect his government but in support of parliament.
Throughout his speech in the National Assembly, Gilani made several indirect attacks against the judiciary and the armed forces but did not make any specific remarks against either institution. Interestingly, the speech was punctuated by political twists, contradictions and somersaults. While the desperate-looking prime minister sought the oppositions’ support for the resolution, he said he did not need a vote of confidence as he was a unanimously elected prime minister.
Reacting to Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s remarks that the opposition did not have confidence in the government, the prime minister said it was not a matter of confidence or no-confidence, as it was all about the democratic process.
He also urged the opposition to get the constitution amended to reduce the tenure of the government and parliament from five to four years if they did not like, him but no one else should tell the government to go before the end of its term.“We would support this amendment. Why should any other institution tell us to leave after four years? This is the right of parliament, so you should bring an amendment to reduce the term of the prime minister and the parliament to four years,” he said.
He also brushed aside the impression that the ruling party wanted to trigger a confrontation between the state institutions and commit political suicide. “We don’t want confrontation between the state institutions nor is (political) martyrdom our objective. We also did not come here to get your recommendations in support of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and we will also not beg for your support to save us from the army. We have reached this point after a struggle,” he said, adding that the resolution was aimed at strengthening parliament.
Seeking support from the opposition for the resolution moved by the treasury benches, Gilani said the lawmakers should gel together to strengthen parliament as even “crows get united in difficult times”. In order to persuade Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) members to support the resolution, Gilani reminded them how all the 17 judges of the Supreme Court had gathered at night on a “misinformation” that he was going to de-notify the judges who had been restored.
“This news was more of a misinformation and absurd but they all got together. It happens as even crows get together in difficult times. On my assurance, the judges asked me to state in writing that they would not be de-notified in future. But I told them that they were released on my verbal orders in my first speech, even though I had not taken oath after being elected.
They were restored on my executive order. I told them that they would have to believe on verbal assurance of an elected prime minister, but I would not give this in writing,” he said.Gilani also said he was booked under treason charges for supporting Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and had no regrets for that. “But this cannot happen that we ask you to reopen the ZA Bhutto case and you term us traitors.
Even the judge who gave verdict against Bhutto admitted in his book that it was judicial murder,” he added.The prime minister was interrupted with cried of “No, no” by his own colleagues when he reminded the PML-N members that like them, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) members had also faced brutal torture in their struggle for democratic order in the country.
“We, like you, were also subjected to lashes while struggling for democracy,” he said, but was interrupted by his colleagues who reminded the prime minister that none of the PML-N men had fought against the autocracy of General Ziaul Haq in the 1970s. It is, however, a historical fact that the prime minister’s elders were with the PML in the 70s. Gilani immediately corrected himself by stating that though no PML-N leaders had to face lashes, but people like Makhdoom Javed Hashmi were subjected to torture along with him in jail for the cause of democracy. He said it was to his government’s credit that for the first time in the country’s history, the army chief and the ISI DG had been made accountable to parliament.
Referring to the resolution, moved in the National Assembly by Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, the prime minister said the resolution was not against any institution but meant to support the democratic process and continuity of the parliamentary system in the country.Even though he vowed that he would never seek help from the opposition, Gilani said urged the opposition to support parliament.
“You should protect yourself, you should protect the parliament,” he said.He also said the NRO was not drafted by the PPP but no one was talking about its creator. “Now the same dictator is talking about returning to the country as the people want him back,” he said in a taunting tone.
“Let us decide that either there will be democracy or there will be dictatorship in the country,” he said, adding that his government might have made mistakes but parliament should not be punished for the wrongdoings of the government. Recalling the removal of PML-N government in October 1999, Gilani said it was also a conspiracy against an elected government that enjoyed a two-thirds majority.“Let me tell you even if my government is sent packing and any new stage is set up, neither the opposition nor we will be given power.
We are political workers. We may commit mistakes but democracy should not suffer,” he added. Gilani said although the treasury benches had majority in the House, he did not want to bulldoze the resolution through but wanted to take the opposition along. He said since the opposition wanted some time, the voting on the resolution may be held on Monday to achieve consensus. – PT