PM swears by CoD, promises package by March 23
By Amjad Mahmood
LAHORE: After a breakfast meeting with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif at his Raiwind residence, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters here on Monday he would ask the parliament’s constitutional reforms committee to complete its report on amending the Constitution before March 23.
The package of amendments, he said, would be based on the Charter of Democracy and include repeal of the 17th Amendment.
During the one-and-a-half-hour meeting, the primer minister discussed with Mr Sharif and his PML-N team, which included Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Senator Ishaq Dar and Husain Nawaz, implementation of the Charter, steps needed to strengthen state institutions and relief measures for the masses.
If the body language of Mr Sharif was anything to go by, the meeting did not end on a positive note as the PML-N chief maintained an indifferent attitude throughout the press conference held after the meeting, indicating that the two sides had failed bridge the trust deficit between them.
The prime minister said he had apprised his host of the PPP’s desire to implement the Charter of Democracy and that the constitutional package to be unveiled before March 23 would include repeal of the 17th Amendment and measures to balance powers between the presidency and parliament.
Mr Gilani said he had requested the four chief ministers to work out a joint strategy to provide relief to the masses, adding that think-tanks of the PPP and the PML-N could also come up with recommendations for the purpose.
He said he had assured Mr Sharif that the government respected the judiciary and would implement its judgments.
Mr Sharif regretted that the Murree Declaration signed two years ago was yet to be implemented and laid stress on a corruption-free government based on merit and justice.
He said that former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, who should have been questioned by parliament at least on the issue of loadshedding, had been given a “guard of honour” on departure.
He said the PML-N would give its suggestions on measures to provide relief to the masses only if it was assured that decision taken would be implemented in letter and spirit. Mr Sharif said that parliament should be sovereign, there should be an independent judiciary and the executive should be respected. He demanded that Supreme Court decisions, including the one about the National Reconciliation, should be implemented in letter and spirit.
Asked if the meeting had done anything to reduce the threat that he thought democracy faced from President Asif Ali Zardari, Mr Sharif said it would depend on actions taken by the government. “Actions speak louder than words,” he added.
Sources told Dawn that during the meeting the prime minister urged Mr Sharif not to lay stress on Swiss cases against President Zardari and promised that in return the government would not proceed on NAB cases against the Sharif family.
Mr Gilani also asked the PML-N chief to give up his demand for accountability of Pervez Musharraf because the government was helpless in the matter.
The sources said that when the prime minister assured Mr Sharif that the 17th Amendment would be repealed soon, the latter sought visible and concrete actions, instead of hollow promises.
“The parliamentary committee (on constitutional reforms) will take a long time to restore the Constitution to its pre-Oct 12, 1999, position,” Mr Sharif was quoted as saying. He also expressed distrust in the Raza Rabbani-led committee.
He was of the opinion that the constitutional package containing a host of issues would take a fairly long time for approval by parliament.