NRO beneficiaries to be sacked: PM
By Ahmad Hassan
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Sunday that rewriting or amending the Constitution was the sole prerogative of parliament and not of the Supreme Court.
Talking to senior journalists and television anchorpersons, he said in what appeared to be a shift from his earlier position that he would sack all beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) when a list now being vetted by the law ministry was submitted to him.
He said a five-point summary signed by him would be submitted to the Supreme Court on Monday.
The prime minister said he would hold a meeting with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at around 2pm to exchange views on the political situation.
He reiterated the constitutional position that the president enjoyed immunity from being tried by any court and no letter could be dispatched to a Swiss court.
The apex court had asked the government last week to write a letter to the Swiss court for reopening a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari closed under the NRO. In the wake of the directives, the law ministry sent the summary to the prime minister.
“I am ready to appear in the court, if called to defend my actions,” he said when asked about a possibility of facing a contempt of court notice.
The prime minister said Article 248 (president’s immunity) should not be interpreted in more than one way.
“It is amazing that on the one hand the government is asked to bring back Dr Aafia Siddiqui from the US and on the other it is called upon to hand over the case of the president to the Swiss court.”
The prime minister said the president was the supreme commander of the armed forces and part of parliament and the Swiss cases were past and closed transaction. “It would be against national honour and Pakistan’s sovereignty to hand over your president to Swiss courts.”
Answering a question he said: “Neither I nor my government is going anywhere.” He said any unconstitutional method for changing the government would not be tolerated.
The prime minister urged Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif and other democratic forces to discourage the elements who were conspiring against democracy.
The prime minister expressed the hope that the apex court would take care that its judgments did not create an atmosphere of instability.
He said parliament was sovereign and it was one on defending the 18th Amendment and he, being the leader of the house, was the voice of parliament.
The amendment, he said, had been approved by all parties unanimously and if anyone had any objection to a clause he could have raised it in parliament.
In a lighter vein, he said: “Let me know the exact date of my government’s departure as all earlier deadlines given by the media have passed to the embarrassment of the rumour mongers.”
A private TV channel quoted him as saying that all NRO beneficiaries, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik, should voluntarily resign, but Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira clarified that “the PM did not mention the name of any minister and he only said that the list of beneficiaries was being vetted by the law ministry”.
The prime minister confirmed that he had met Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry a few days ago.
He refused to comment on reports about expected return of former president Pervez Musharraf.
FLOOD TAX: Talking to journalists during his visit to the Sunday bazaar, the prime minister said the government was considering to levy flood tax because it felt ashamed when international donors asked why Pakistan’s own taxpayers were not being asked to contribute while it appealed for help and support.
He said the government was taking every measure to control inflation whose major cause was international economic recession.
The prime minister said the government had frozen the current expenditures and issued similar directives to the provinces.