M A I N   N E W S

standoff with military
Tough-talking Gilani draws the line
Says choice is between dictatorship, democracy
Tribune News Service & agencies

Islamabad, January 13
In a crucial emergency session of the National Assembly today, Pakistan’s beleaguered Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called upon Parliament to decide what should prevail in the country, democracy or dictatorship. Earlier, President Asif Ali Zardari cut short his visit to Dubai and returned here early in the morning.

The session was adjourned till Monday, when the National Assembly is expected to adopt or vote on a resolution expressing “full confidence and trust” of the elected House in the political leadership.

The same day, a full 17-member bench of the Supreme Court will hear the government’s response to the ultimatum served by the court this week. The court has been hearing petitions on the government’s refusal to re-open graft cases against President Zardari and eight thousand other politicians. Zardari has claimed exemption from prosecution under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) promulgated in the year 2000, a deal worked out by Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan Muslim league chief Nawaz Sharif.

To add to the discomfiture of the government, the sacked Defence Secretary said on Friday that he would challenge his dismissal in court. “There was no show-cause served, no inquiry held and no reason given,” maintained retired Lt-Gen Naeem Lodhi.

In Parliament, Prime Minister Gilani stoutly maintained that the Government was neither against the military nor against the judiciary. Claiming that the government had always backed the other two institutions, widely believed to have come together against the government, Gilani pointed out that PPP leaders had gone to jail for the independence of the judiciary. But he maintained that all state institutions must accept the Parliament to be supreme.

“ We have received a mandate to run the government for five years. If some people now think that the mandate should be reduced to four years, let them move the Parliament and amend the Constitution,” he asserted while listing the government’s achievements.

There is a broad, political consensus against any military takeover. The Army is also reluctant to undertake any political adventure in view of the challenging ground situation. It is clearly averse to be held responsible for the poor economy, rising unemployment and growing fundamentalism and aggression of terror groups. While the military is clearly gunning for the civilian government, judging by its public statements warning of ‘dire and grievous consequences’ for the country, it would like the judiciary to bell the cat.

The US administration is also worried and favours smooth ties between civilian and military leaders. It needs stability in Pakistan in order to normalise the situation in Afghanistan. But a Reuters report quoted close aides of President Zardari saying that Zardari is “ stubborn and headstrong and strongly desires to leave a legacy as the man, who finally got the ballot box to prevail”. Pakistan’s Generals, however, see him as both corrupt and inept.

The Generals, who had urged the Supreme Court to investigate the ‘Memogate’ controversy, are waiting for the key witness, Mansoor Ijaz, to turn up before the court and depose. They hope that the testimony and evidence produced by Ijaz, who has indicated his plan to bring in phone records and text message, would lead the trail to President Zardari. In that eventuality, the court could hold the President guilty of treason and call upon the Generals to act against him.





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