LAHORE: The premier was quick to draw a parallel between himself and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Sunday.
“I don’t have the right to investigate cases against my sons, and in the same way the rules of procedure constrain the CJ from hearing a case against his own son (Arsalan Iftikhar). I voluntarily surrendered my sons before the apex court for investigating the cases against them,” Yousaf Raza Gilani told journalists at the state guest house here.
“The cases against my sons in the Hajj scam and the latest allegations in the ephedrine case are based on rumours. I have been facing allegations for the last four years, but I did not mind it,” Gilani added.
At the same time, the premier was keen to downplay any political consequences of the case involving the chief justice’s son. Asked whether he or the army would benefit from the case, he quickly shot down the possibility.
Replying to a question about whether the cases involving the sons of both the heads of the judiciary and the government bore signs of reprisal, the premier insisted that he had a good relationship with the judiciary in spite of his recent conviction. Such negative statements should be avoided, he added.
Referring to the alleged involvement of a real estate tycoon in the case, the premier said, “Malik Riaz has good relations with almost all significant people in the country.”
Asked whether the federal government would demand that the chief justice detach himself from hearing the case challenging the NA speaker’s ruling, the prime minister said that everyone ought to remain within their constitutional limits.
“I have been elected by the people, (I haven’t come to power) with the support of the judiciary. We don’t play one-day cricket, we believe in Test cricket,” he added.
Prime Minister Gilani said that the next target for the federal government was to hold local government elections. According to a Supreme Court ruling, he said, all provincial governments must now hold local government elections. These should be carried out on a party basis, he added. Results would only be legitimate if there is a turnout of at least 51 per cent.
Asked whether the PPP would participate in the local body elections on a non-party basis, he said, “We will cross that bridge when we come to it.”
South Punjab province
Referring to PPP’s efforts to carve out a new province in South Punjab, Premier Gilani said the president has called for a commission on new provinces, and that the speaker would soon constitute this commission. His own role in this panel, however, was unclear. The premier said it was the speaker’s prerogative to include or exclude him from the commission.
He took the chance, however, to lash out at the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), saying that the Punjab government had ‘exposed’ its hesitance to form a new province, as it has not allocated funds for either proposed province (Bahalwapur and South Punjab) in the budget.
He added that the provincial government had failed to generate even one unit of electricity, and expressed concern over the PML-N’s ‘attacks’ on the government in court and in parliament.
Asked about dual nationality, Gilani said that if Pakistan granted its expatriates the right to vote, then there should be no restrictions on them becoming legislators.
CJ remains last hope for country: Shahbaz
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Sunday that all segments of civil society had played their due role in the movement for the restoration of judiciary in 2007, and the treatment being meted out today to the institution is deplorable.
“Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is the last remaining hope for supremacy of law and order in the country. If any attempt is made to topple him, ‘thugs’ will dominate the country,” remarked Shahbaz, while talking to reporters in Lahore.
“Only judges can determine the exact nature of what is happening to the judiciary now. However, if any harm comes to it, this nation’s wealth will be plundered,” he said, referring to Dr Arsalan Iftikhar issue.
Shahbaz asserted that the urgency of the circumstances require that the whole nation stand by the judiciary during the current crisis.
“Asif Ali Zardari had earlier offered that cases against us be withdrawn if the ‘Dogar Raj’ was extended,” said Shahbaz, referring to the PCO judges of the Musharraf era.
“However, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz turned down this offer, renewing its pledge to continue its struggle for the independence of judiciary in the country,” said an emphatic Shahbaz.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2012.