Answerable to parliament, not individuals: PM

Prime Minister GilaniISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Sunday rejected a demand by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani that he clarify or retract his criticism of the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), saying he was not answerable to an individual but to parliament alone.

“I am definitely answerable as Article 91 of the constitution states that the prime minister, ministers and ministers of state are answerable to parliament. If anyone has any complaints, I will not answer to any individual as I am answerable to parliament,” he said. “Whenever parliament wants, I can present my viewpoint before parliament,” he added. In an interview with Chinese media last week, Gilani criticised General Kayani and ISI Director General Lt General Ahmad Shuja Pasha for submitting their replies to the supreme court in the memo case. He said the filings were “unconstitutional”, infuriating the military’s high command, who issued a stern press release in response. Gilani’s comments were in response to a journalist’s question about media reports on Saturday night that Gen Kayani was infuriated by Gilani’s criticisms.

The army chief complained to President Asif Ali Zardari and demanded that Gilani’s comments be clarified or withdrawn, a military source told Reuters on Saturday. Gilani, however, showed no signs of backing down. “What I said was not an accusation,” he told reporters.“We want there to be respect for the constitution, rule of law, and all institutions to work within their limits. I said just one thing, that rules and procedures were not followed. And that was the defence secretary’s fault, for which we removed him from his post,” he added. Asked about reports that he might be removed from the post of prime minister because of the standoff with the military, Gilani said he wanted to see parliament complete its five-year term but had never spoken of sticking to his post.

“I have never said I will remain prime minister for five years. But I have definitely said that parliament will complete its term and people have chosen this parliament for five years,” he said. “It is necessary for parliament to remain for five years, it is not necessary for the prime minister to remain for five years. If someone wants to bring a new prime minister according to the constitution and procedures, we will welcome it,” said Gilani.The prime minister also dismissed reports that President Zardari had sought an explanation or asked him to retract his remarks, and pointed out that the presidency had rejected the media reports.

“You are saying there was talk of an explanation. General Kayani met the president and neither you nor I was present during their discussions. I can only accept any statement made by the president. The president has rejected reports that he had sought an explanation from me or that I take back my statement,” he said. “I want to tell you that I am a representative of the people, I am the people’s elected prime minister. I represent 180 million people and all institutions are working within their domains under the government,” the prime minister said. – PT