The first day of the Senate’s new parliamentary year began with the prime minister offering to go home – but only if disqualified by the National Assembly speaker.
In his 35-minute speech, punctuated by generous applause from PPP lawmakers, Yousaf Raza Gilani criticised the opposition’s past, present and future political moves and defiantly stuck to his stand on the Supreme Court’s verdict.
Once again, he appeared determined not to go down without a fight. “I will not go back to Multan (his hometown) unless the National Assembly speaker de-notifies me,” he said, while speaking on the floor of the Upper House.
“They (the opposition) call me a convicted prime minister without knowing that I have a right to appeal,” he said. “I promise you (Nawaz Sharif) that I will leave my office and head Multan (if disqualified).”
But Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmakers did not stay long enough to hear him out and walked out of the hall. However, they were alone in their boycott as no other political party joined them.
“Gilani is a stranger to this House and cannot represent Parliament. The Senate chairman is violating rules by allowing him on the floor of the House,” said PML-N Senator Zafar Ali Shah as the party’s lawmakers protested against the speech.
While the opposition party boycotted the proceedings, Premier Gilani accused the PML-N of trying to derail the incumbent democratic system.
“I cannot face two courts simultaneously. I’m sorry for violating Sharif court’s order,” he said on a sarcastic note.
Nawaz Sharif, who could not run the government despite having had two opportunities, should take responsible steps since the country is passing through a crucial phase.
“I am not a beneficiary of the NRO, (National Reconciliation Ordinance). In fact, it was Nawaz Sharif who benefited from it first.” The Sharif family’s going into self-exile in Saudi Arabia after a notorious deal can be called the country’s first NRO, he added.
The prime minister, defending himself in light of the Supreme Court’s order declaring him guilty of contempt of court, said that he was only protecting the Constitution.
He alleged that the PML-N felt threatened by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and wanted to announce a long march before Khan did. “Mian sahib should remember that I was convicted for 30 seconds, while he was convicted for almost eight years. How does he think that he is eligible to rule the country then?”
Gilani further said that the haste shown by the PML-N leaders after the Supreme Court verdict reflects its concern on making a Seraiki province, which the president has expressed support for.
In response to Gilani, Leader of the Opposition Ishaq Dar asked Premier Gilani to leave his office, alleging that he had lost his job after the apex court’s order. “Who will follow the law if the lawmakers themselves break it?”
“As a citizen of Pakistan, Gilani has a right to appeal his case, but he should seek justice without claiming that he is still the prime minister.”
Private members bill
Despite the ruckus, the Senate managed to take up three private members bills.
PPP Senator Raza Rabbani introduced two bills, one to amend the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1956 and another to further amend the Banking Companies Ordinance, 1962. Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Abdul Haseeb introduced a bill for the establishment of a Drug Regulatory Authority. Chairman Senate referred the bills to the relevant standing committees for further deliberations.
The proceedings were adjourned until Wednesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2012.