Playing to the gallery? Gilani says prefers jail to writing letter
Islamabad: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Thursday he would rather go to jail than obey a court order and ask Switzerland to re-open graft cases against the president.
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.
He has always insisted that President Asif Ali Zardari is immune from prosecution as president and says the cases against him are politically motivated.
“If I write a letter it will be a violation of the constitution, which is treason and which carries the death sentence,” Gilani told PhD students in central Punjab province, with a few in the audience shouting “do not write, do not write”.
“If I don’t write, I will be convicted for contempt, the punishment for which is six months’ imprisonment,” Gilani said.
“It’s better to face six months’ imprisonment than face the death sentence.” Pakistan’s top court last week ordered Gilani to ask Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against Zardari by March 21.
Playing to the gallery, Gilani asked the students in Bahawalpur district 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.”
“If I write the letter, then I hit Article 6 of the Constitution as an attempt of sedition, which suggests death sentence,” the Prime Minister told students at the Convocation of Bahawalpur Islamia University.
The Prime Minister said he was firm on not taking any unconstitutional step.
He said the charges of contempt against him would also undermine the parliament which gives immunity to the country’s President.
Gilani said the top leadership of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) laid down its lives for the people of country.
He said the system was gaining strength as a dividend of democracy.
“Had there been no democracy, there would have been no free judiciary and much more,” he said.
According to him, when President Zardari addresses the Parliament on March 17, it will be the fifth time that he has addressed the Parliament.
“The system must continue as it will help strengthen democracy in the country,” he said.
Prime Minister Gilani said he was fully in favour of a separate ‘Bahawalpur province’.
“We support formation of peoples’ own assembly, not an administrative unit,” he said.
He said some conspirators did not want the establishment of Bahawalpur and Seraiki provinces.
“They would not let resolutions to be passed by the Punjab Assembly and would always conspire against us to make us fight with each other,” he said.