Gilani maintains defiant stance
Khawar Ghumman and Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD: There is no let-up in the rising political temperature in the country. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, at centre of a controversy after his conviction for contempt, continued with his defiant mood on Monday.
The prime minister, while speaking at a ceremony in the morning, publicly criticised the Supreme Court judgment and then while addressing the Senate in the evening he hit out at the Pakistan Muslim League-N for demanding his resignation in the aftermath of the conviction.
At the ceremony organised by Radio Pakistan, Mr Gilani for the first time publicly criticised the seven-member Supreme Court bench’s judgment in which he had been found guilty of contempt charges.
“Even though the entire world is aghast over the SC judgment against me, we have accepted it.
“Can a court convict somebody with a criminal offence when there are civil charges against him?”
The prime minister also said in a sarcastic tone that his 30-second punishment deserved to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records.
He said there was no law in the world under which a court could send home an elected representative, thus he would continue to serve as prime minister.
Since the announcement of the court judgment on April 26, legal experts are divided on its impact. Some say it automatically disqualifies Mr Gilani as a member of the National Assembly and he ceases to be the prime minister. But there are others who believe that only the speaker can decide on the matter as the final authority.
From his hard-hitting remarks, it appears the soft-spoken prime minister has decided to take his opponents head-on.
And for the first time, the prime minister bracketed the SC judgment and PML-N’s response to his conviction, saying that from the opposition party’s reaction it appeared as if they knew the judgment in advance.
“The implementation of law by the SC should be even-handed,” said the prime minister while referring to the court’s lack of interest in the Mehrangate scandal in which PML-N leaders are allegedly involved. “Strangely, the SC was quick to announce decision on my cases but showing no urgency on Mehrangate scandal.”
In response to a question, the prime minister outrightly dismissed a perception of a constitutional crisis following his conviction.
“Only the Sharif courts based in Raiwind are getting impassioned and want to send the current set-up packing. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong.”
Mr Gilani also asked the Sharif brothers to explain under which court judgment they had been released from Adiala jail and flown to Jeddah.
In response to the opposition’s demand for his resignation, Mr Gilani said only the speaker of the National Assembly had the power to ask him to leave the charge as prime minister and if asked, he would not think for a second and go back to Multan.
“What is the hurry, let the detailed judgment come. And what about my right of appeal against the decision which the Constitution gives me,” he said in response to a query.
LETTER TO AITZAZ: “At the end of the day, it is the people of Pakistan who judge the performance of their government and this right of the people, expressed through their elected representatives in parliament, cannot be taken away and should not be allowed to be taken away from them,” the prime minister said in a letter addressed to Senator Aitzaz Ahsan along with a Rs100 cheque as fee for what he termed his priceless services as his lawyer.
“In representing me, in fact, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan was upholding and defending the principle of supremacy of the Constitution which was no small matter, especially in the face of an adverse propaganda by some political entities and relentless bias by a section of the media.”
The prime minister referred to Chaudhry Aitzaz’s book ‘Divided by democracy’ in which he wrote that in the political history of Pakistan not once had the judiciary “invalidated the incumbent regime of a military adventurer” and expressed the hope that some day this would prove to be untrue.
CONSPIRACY: Speaking in the Senate after a protest walkout by PML-N members against his appearance in the house after conviction, Mr Gilani accused the opposition party of conspiring to derail democracy and advised it to desist from influencing the court’s decision.
He said the law provided for an appeal against the judgment followed by a procedure. He said he would quit the day he was de-notified by the speaker.
He also claimed that even if he went, the next prime minister would be picked by him.
The prime minister said he was not a beneficiary of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and his only crime was that he wanted to protect the Constitution. He said he had given respect to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif after his conviction in a hijacking case.
He said Mr Sharif had become the first beneficiary of the NRO when he proceeded to Jeddah from Adiala jail under an agreement. However, he kept misleading the nation by saying that he had not signed any agreement.
Prime Minister Gilani said he had followed the rules and procedures and accepted the advice, which was correct, that a letter for reopening cases against the president could not be written because the head of the state enjoyed complete immunity in and outside the country under the Constitution.
The prime minister said even his successor would not write such a letter if he left.
He said Mr Sharif’s moves were driven by his ‘Imran phobia’. “That is why they want to hold a long march before him.”
Mr Gilani said the bar on becoming prime minister for the third term had been lifted to favour Mr Sharif.
DAR’S DEFENCE: Leader of Opposition in the Senate, Mohammad Ishaq Dar, sharply reacted to the remarks, saying Mr Sharif had not gone to Saudi Arabia through any NRO but Muslim countries had played a role to save the leader who could have been hanged by Gen Pervez Musharraf.
He said the clause about bar on premiership was also applicable to the late Benazir Bhutto.
Senator Dar said the PML-N would accept the decision if the sentence was set aside after an appeal.