LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: The prime minister, who was convicted of contempt by the apex court last week, once again struck a defiant note on Sunday.
No prime minister from Pakistan Peoples Party would write a letter to the authorities in Switzerland to seek reopening of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, said Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The premier was convicted for his refusal to comply with a Supreme Court order which asked the government to write to the Swiss authorities following the nullification of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
In meetings with delegations of lawyers and supporters at his Lahore residence, the premier reiterated his decision to appeal against Thursday’s verdict of the apex court as “a contempt of court law does not exist in the country”.
However, he said, disqualifying him as prime minister was a prerogative of parliament “which is the supreme body of the country”.
Prime Minister Gilani also reacted sharply to calls from the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) for him to step down immediately. He challenged the party, once again, to bring a no-confidence movement against him in parliament.
The premier went on to question the PML-N chief’s mental condition, and said Nawaz Sharif was ‘confused’ and was now confusing politics too.
Nawaz should keep his wishes to himself, the premier said and added that he would not resign to “fulfill someone’s wishes”.
He claimed that the PML-N chief was the first person to sign the National Reconciliation Ordinance and questioned the law under which he was allowed to go into self-exile.
The PML-N, on the other hand, clarified that it had never challenged the majority of the PPP-led ruling coalition but had questioned the premier’s membership in the National Assembly.
“It is not a question of no-confidence motion … we have never said that. We have challenged Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s candidature,” leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a news conference.
“It is a misfortune for the country that both the president and the prime minister have been convicted by the courts,” he added. Responding to a question, Nisar said the government’s allegations against the PML-N leadership were aimed at diverting the attention from implementing court orders. The court had simply asked to bring back $60 million but the government made the premier a scapegoat, he said.
In order to substantiate his point that the premier should step down, Nisar referred to the disqualification of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif which was followed by the governor’s rule in the province.
“Had the government waited till the filing of a review petition when the Punjab chief minister was disqualified?”
Disapproving of the rulers’ claim of having public support despite all odds, the PML-N said a victory by 350 votes (provincial assembly seat in Multan) does not reflect public support. “General elections are the yardstick to gauge public support,” he said.
He also raised objections at the National Assembly speaker’s for allowing Prime Minister Gilani to address the National Assembly during the question hour session, while the opposition was absent. “This is against the rules,” he added.
The PML-N had convened a huddle to discuss the post-verdict situation, which is scheduled for Monday (today).
However, Nisar remained tight-lipped when asked about his party’s future course of action. “We have many options … and will utilise every possible option if orders of the court are not implemented,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2012.