The prime minister can’t seem to make up his mind.
Just a day after publicly announcing that all stakeholders – army and judiciary and political parties – were on the same page, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf told cabinet members on Wednesday that “anti-democratic forces” were working against the democratic process.
“While our government is sincerely engaged in efforts to strengthen democracy, anti-democratic forces and anti-state elements are also busy in creating situations that are not only detrimental to democracy but also to economic growth and stability,” the premier was quoted as saying during the cabinet meeting.
Earlier, Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Raza Rabbani claimed that a conspiracy was being hatched to install an ‘illegal” caretaker set-up in a bid to delay the next general elections.
In his opening speech to the cabinet, Prime Minister Ashraf said, “I want to convey a message to the anti-democracy elements that we shall not succumb to their intrigues. We shall not let any one derail democracy. We gave and are ready to give any kind of sacrifice for the country and democracy.”
While addressing the media after the meeting, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira augmented the stance of the prime minister and admitted that there were “still threats to the democratic setup”.
“The present assemblies have done remarkable work during the last five years and have also provided a base that will keep all threats to the system at a distance” he added.
Prime Minister Ashraf ruled out the demand to dissolve the Election Commission of Pakistan saying it was extra-constitutional.
“Neither the ECP, nor its members, can be removed as their appointment was made in accordance with the Constitution” he said.
The premier also said that, as per directions of the president, a caretaker set-up at the Centre and provinces would be formed in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and after consultation with “all stakeholders”.
Kaira told reporters that a five-member committee has started working on a consensus date for dissolution of the federal and provincial assemblies. He added the committee is expected to complete the task in eight to 10 days.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2013.
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