‘I am PM, not a peon’

Prime Minister GilaniMAILSI\BAHAWALPUR:  Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said he was prime minister not a peon and would prefer jail instead of writing letter to Swiss authorities against President Asif Ali Zardari on the Supreme Court orders.

Addressing a public gathering in Mailsi on Thursday, the prime minister said the judges consider him as peon rather than a prime minister. Later in the afternoon, he told PhD students of Islamia University Bahawalpur that if he writes letter to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against Asif Ali Zardari it would be in violation of the constitution and he could be awarded death sentence under Article 6 while he would be sent to jail for six months if punished with contempt of court for not writing the letter.

“If I write a letter it will be a violation of the constitution, which is treason and which carries the death sentence,” Gilani told the students, with a few in the audience shouting ‘do not write, do not write’. “It’s better to face six months’ imprisonment than face the death sentence,“ he remarked.

Playing to the gallery, Gilani asked the students whether he should write the letter, to which the audience shouted: ‘No, no.’ “Ok, we will send your message to the court and tell them that they should charge parliament with contempt of court because parliament has given immunity to the president. All heads of state all over the world have this immunity.” Gilani said he was loyal to Pakistan People’s Party and would not change his loyalty. He said he would leave politics but would not stab Zardari in the back.

Gilani’s remarks revive speculation that he would rather risk losing his job than capitulate in a two-year showdown with the judiciary that culminated last month with him being charged with contempt by the Supreme Court. Prime Minister Gilani said he too was in favour of Bahawalpur province but it is not as easy as some people think. No bill of Bahawalpur province or Seraiki province can be passed in the Punjab Assembly under the prevailing conditions, but ‘we will continue fighting on this issue’ of Bahawalpur or Seraiki province, so it will be better to resolve this issue amicably according to the ground realities.

He said that he would not favour the 1935 Act of British government to make Bahawalpur an administrative unit, so if people wanted Bahawalpur province, they should table the move in the Punjab Assembly for approval and see the output.Gilani said the PPP regime would set new dimensions in the promotion of democracy and democratic institutions. The democracy was not given a due chance to flourish in the past but this time it was the result of their sincere efforts and wise policies that their government would present its 5th national budget. And President Asif Ali Zardari would address the joint session of the parliament for the 5th time on March 17, he added, noting that no other president of the country liked to address the assembly so frequently.

The PM said the assemblies should be given fair chance to complete their due term. “Personalities do not matter but institutions must be made strong and safe.” He said that the PPP had scarified too much for the promotion of democracy and public rights and welfare and it should be acknowledged as the “PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto sacrificed their lives for this cause and we honour their devotion for nation and country”.

The premier announced that IT centres would soon be set up across the country at union council level to provide better IT education, training and create job opportunities to meet the current day requirements as he said “IT is the main source of progress in the world now so we have to provide all possible chances to our youngsters to avail this facility and reduce unemployment”.

Gilani said he wanted to see IUB as one of the leading educational institutes of higher learning and pledged to provide all possible help for this cause. He directed to set up Khawaja Farid Chair at the university as per the modern day demands to meet the desired standards and to promote the philosophy of the saint poet in its real sense. The PM also underlined the need to establish IT and biotechnology institutes to better serve the area and the country.

IUB Chancellor and Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa and Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Mukhatar extended their gratitude to the PM and Saudi Ambassador Abdul Aziz Ibrahim al-Ghadeer for attending the IUB convocation in which the postgraduate, M Phil and PhD pass outs were awarded degrees and gold medals for the session of 2007 and 2008.In all, 1,056 students of different departments were awarded postgraduate degrees, 49 scholars were awarded MPhil degrees and 12 scholars were given PhD degrees, while 102 students of the 2007-08 sessions were awarded gold medals.

PM Gilani congratulated the medallists and degree holders and advised them to utilise all their energies for the betterment of the country and society as education could make Pakistanis more viable nation and strengthen the state.IUB VC Prof Dr Muhammad Mukhtar on the occasion highlighted the academic achievements and progress of the university in different fields and assured that all out efforts would be made to make IUB a well-recognised educational institute of the world.

Prime Minister Gilani announced a grant of Rs20 million for university’s Biotechnology Centre and expressed the hope that this centre would produce better results for the betterment and progress of the human beings, Agriculture and environment sectors. Earlier, the prime minister performed the ground breaking ceremony of the IUB Agriculture College.