|Immunity issue be referred to ‘grantors’|
19 March 2012
LAHORE - A day ahead of next hearing on contempt case against him, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday said that the matter of immunity to the president should be referred to the Parliament, which, according to him, was the appropriate constitutional forum to settle the issue.
“Much like the issue of judges’ appointment which was finally resolved by the Parliament, the issue of presidential immunity should also be referred to it,” Gilani told representatives of print media at his DHA residence here.
He was asked if there was any other option available within the constitutional framework to resolve the conflict regarding the issue in question to avoid his possible punishment by the court and to save him from violation of the Constitution which he believes he would be doing in case he writes the letter.
The prime minister reiterated that only Parliament could waive off the immunity and even the president himself was not competent to do so.
“Constitution of the country grants immunity to the office of the President which is a part and parcel of the Parliament therefore the supreme legislative body is the best forum to deal with issues relating to the presidential immunity,” he maintained. Gilani noted that the 19th Amendment was passed by the Parliament to facilitate appointment of judges of the superior judiciary and in accordance with the views of the Supreme Court.
He said he was ready to resign and would be a happy man if his resignation alone could help resolve the crisis. “But the things will come to the same point as the new prime minister would also be facing a similar problem,” he remarked, adding that Parliament was the right forum to address this issue.
To a question, he complained that it was unfair to mix up two different cases with regard to contempt proceedings against him. “The first case relates to contempt of court and the other one is concerning implementation of the NRO case. In the first case I am being represented by a lawyer, while in respect of the second one I have no lawyer and which is a different case altogether”. He was of the view that the judgement coming from Supreme Court during hearing of contempt case about writing the letter without any advice should not have been passed because it was another case. The prime minister reserved his comment when asked if his approval was also sought while giving extension to the Registrar, Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Asked if the Parliament was yet to endorse his administrative act of restoring the deposed judges through an administrative order as statement by him earlier, the PM did not come up with any clear-cut answer. He replied that confusion was spread earlier that PM was going to denotify the judges and they [judges] sought written assurances from him for not doing so. “I told them that I had restored them with good intention and that they should believe in my words and should not doubt my intentions,” he observed.
Asked if the government had any contingency plan if the prime minister is convicted, Gilani replied in the negative. “It is our judiciary and if it takes some harsh decision what can we do. We are here to strengthen the institutions,” he observed.
He said prime minister was also like an ordinary citizen and could be summoned by the court. He, however, said that it had negative impact on country’s economy and the stock exchange.
Answering a question about restoration of supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan, the premier said that Pakistan had never demanded of the US to seek formal apology for the Salala attack. Similarly, he added Pakistan had never attached any preconditions to restore the supplies.
He informed reporters that Parliamentary Committee on National Security had firmed up its proposals in this regard which would be presented before joint session of the Parliament for discussion on March 20 to finalise the strategy. He said it was not just a question of redefining terms of engagement with the US. “It is a matter of our future relationship with 48 ISAF countries including 27 belonging to the European Union,” he added.
He said he could not divulge details of the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee as they were confidential.
He said Pakistan was seeking new parameters in relations with US. He said Parliament will debate ties with America soon with input from the key stakeholders before the new rules of engagement and proposals are thrashed out.
The relations between the countries touched a new low following the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers through wanton firing by the US troops on their border post in the restive tribal region in November last year.
The Prime Minister asserted that the Parliament is now the foreign policy forum which will debate and deliberate on Pakistan’s relations with the rest of the world. Gilani said Pakistan was a mature and responsible nuclear power which desire good and friendly ties with rest of the world.
When asked if political wing of the ISI was still functional, the PM expressed his ignorance about it. He, however, said that ISI was an important national institution and should not be controversial.
“The new ISI DG is scheduled to meet me soon and I will ask him this question and then inform you about the current status [that of political wing], the prime minister told this scribe, adding that government was duty bound to protect the institutions and take them forward.
To a question about Seraiki province, he said PML-N did not want the formation of a new province, but it would be created in any case. “People’s aspirations cannot be suppressed for long,” he added.
Answering a question about energy crisis, he said that the issue had much to do with the problem of circular debt half of which had been resolved. The remaining half would also be sorted out in due course of time that would help meet most of country’s energy needs. He said provinces should also be questioned about generation of electricity as they have been given this power under the 18th Amendment.
When asked to comment on Opposition’s behaviour during president’s address to the joint session, Gilani said the government took the criticism from Opposition and the media as guidance to improve its performance. The PM, however, criticised the PML-N for what he called using Parliament as a forum of street politics. “They [PML-N] earned a bad name for the country abroad on that day,” he lamented.
Gilani said he saw little chance of PML-N’s success in coming elections if it continued with its diatribe against the government. He said people of Azad Kashmir did not vote in favour of Nawaz party due to its unjust criticism of the government during the last elections.
The PM was satisfied that his party’s policy of reconciliation had worked well so far. “It is because of this policy that the government has completed four years in power,” he added.
To a question, he said it was up to the people to decide about bringing a multi-party system or a two-party one in the country. “Why do you want to minus the role of PTI from politics”, he asked the questioner. PM Gilani also asked another question from journalists. “Why those who had supported Imran Khan in the beginning have withdrawn their support now?”
On the grant of most favoured nation status to India, the Prime Minister said Pakistan had shown no discrimination and there were a number of countries whom this country had extended similar status. He said that the word ‘Most-Favoured Nation’ was creating confusion and needed to be rephrased.
To a question, he said memo scandal had withered away as it contained no substance. “Where is the memo issue now”, he asked.
On Mehrangate, he said it was an old issue and many of the persons involved were no more in this world now. “The judiciary has now taken up this case, but does not mean that the government and the judiciary were one on the issue.
On Balochistan, the Prime Minister said the main issue facing the southwestern province was law and order. He said he would hold discussion with the Balochistan leadership on the progress made so far on Aghaz-i-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package and how far the various resolutions passed by the provincial assembly had been implemented.
The prime minister stressed on bringing law and order situation under control and taking the political leadership on board before dealing with various major issues in a comprehensive manner and correcting the current perception.
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