ISLAMABAD: Steady nerves and a pointed address.
The premier remained composed on Friday, despite a raring opposition and potentially wavering allies in the face of a deepening row with the military and the judiciary – and the government also managed to introduce a highly-anticipated resolution in the house.
The resolution was moved, symbolically enough, by the PPP’s thus far most steadfast ally, Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, amid a protest from opposition benches.
Before the resolution, addressing a special session of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said he would prefer going to the people over begging for the opposition’s support for a fresh vote of confidence in parliament.
“I do not need a vote of confidence,” Gilani said, adding that he was elected prime minister unanimously.
The session, it was widely believed, had been convened in the wake of the Supreme Court warning President Asif Ali Zardari and the prime minister of disqualification over the non-implementation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) verdict.
But the prime minister snubbed the notion that his government was afraid of the NRO at the get-go.
“We have not come for the NRO. We do not need your support to be saved from the military and have not come for a clash of institutions. We have also not come to be shaheeds (martyrs),” the premier said, responding to the leader of the opposition’s query seeking a justification for the ‘emergency session.’
“Somebody should tell us the reason for convening this session and what you are afraid of,” the leader of the opposition, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, had said earlier.
“We have to decide whether there should be democracy or dictatorship in the country … democracy should not be punished for our mistakes”.
He said the opposition could initiate a no-confidence motion against him, but added that it should avoid the temptation: “If a new stage is set up, it will be for neither of us (the government or opposition) – as was the case in 1999,” he said.
The premier repeatedly said he was not against any institution, citing his decision of freeing judges from house arrest.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Shah said the government wanted to introduce a resolution, with the support of the opposition, to keep sovereignty of the house intact.
Gilani’s speech was followed by the highly-anticipated resolution, which is expected to be put to vote in the next session on Monday. Despite having a majority in the house to pass it, the premier said, the government would wait for the opposition’s input.
The resolution said that the trichotomy of powers should be fully respected and all institutions should operate strictly within the Constitution.
Chaudhry Nisar, however, said the opposition did not agree with the last clause of the resolution which states: “This house endorses and supports the efforts made by the political leadership for strengthening democracy and reposes full confidence and trust in them.”
“If we had the numerical strength, a no-confidence motion against the government could have been the first thing we had done,” Nisar said, adding that the resolution was “unnecessary”.
“We will not welcome any unconstitutional step,” he, however, added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2012.