M A I N   N E W S

Gilani elected Pak PM
Orders release of detained judges
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was on Monday elected Prime Minister of Pakistan with overwhelming majority securing 264 votes against 42 by his rival and former Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi.

Gilani, 56, immediately ordered the release of the deposed judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, called for a resolution for a UN probe into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and the reaffirmation of the Murreee Declaration of March 9 that included the reinstatement of deposed judges within 30 days. He pledged to work for establishing the supremacy of Parliament, strengthening of institutions, independence of judiciary and media freedom. He said the 1973 constitution and rule of law would remain the guiding force in the functioning of his government.

“This is a historic moment, ushering in an era of democracy that we must seize and never lose again,” he observed.

Later, deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was freed after being in house arrest for over four months.

Islamabad Deputy Comissioner Hamir Amir Ali said Gilani’s order had been implemented and “all the deposed judges are free to move about.”

A beaming Chaudhry emerged in the night on the balcony of his house, flanked by his wife and children, and waved to ecstatic supporters who had earlier helped police tear down barbed wire barricades around the house.

“I am thankful to the entire nation which has struggled for the last five months for the rule of law,” Chaudhry said through a loudspeaker. Former premier Nawaz Sharif,whose PML-N is part of the new coalaition, said the sacked judges will be restored within 30 days.

It was a poignant moment for Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who watched the spectacle along with his father Asif Zardari, with tears flowing profusely when the members shouted slogans of “Shaheed Benazir Zindabad”. Had she not been murdered, Bhutto would have occupied the centre stage on Monday.

With 25 MQM members also voting for Gilani, the joint candidate of the four-party coalition, improved his tally by 15 votes secured by speaker Mirza, who polled 249 votes. Pervez Elahi got 28 votes less than the Opposition candidate for speaker. Of the total 228 members entitled to vote, 306 exercised their right.

Opposition leader Pervez Elahi welcomed Gilani’s election and assured full cooperation in efforts to resolving the problems faced by the country. He warned that nothing should be done to provoke confrontation between Parliament and institutions, an apparent reference to Musharraf. He also cautioned against decreasing defence budget or impeding nuclear programme.

Makhdoom Amin Fahim also greeted Gilani and assured him full support in running the government.

Earlier, PPP disgruntled leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim on Monday resigned as president of the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD).

In a letter addressed to acting secretary general of ARD Abdul Qadeer Khamosh, Fahim said the ARD's fundamental objective has been achieved and there was no point in continuing this alliance.

Fahim arrived in Islamabad last night saying he will cast his vote for PPP prime ministerial candidate Yousaf Raza Gilani. He said he would never quit the party but will not accept any governmental position.

Gilani on Monday paid a courtesy call on Fahim at his residence before the election. Gilani said Fahim is a senior leader of the party and he would continue to seek his guidance and support as Prime Minister.

Fahim, president of the PPP parliamentary party, did not attend the dinner reception hosted on Sunday night by the new speaker Dr Fahmida Mirza. He also did not attend the joint meeting of parliamentary parties of the four coalition partners.

Meanwhile, Makhdoom Yousaf Raza Gilani will stay as Prime Minister for the full five-year term, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari has said.

“It is not an interim arrangement and Gilani is not going to be another Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain,” Zardari told English daily The News, apparently referring to the episode in which Shujaat was installed as stand-in Prime Minister for fifty days before Shaukat Aziz could qualify for the office by getting elected to the National Assembly.



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