Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani put up a strong defence for the military in the upper house of the Parliament on Wednesday, saying “It is the testing time for us, but we, being a brave nation, will stand united and not give anyone a chance to breach state sovereignty.”
The military is under fire both at home and abroad over its ignorance of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts and the US Navy SEALS’ raid in Abbottabad to capture him.
Speaking on floor of the Senate, Gilani urged the nation to support the army at a time when “Pakistan is facing serious threats in the aftermath of the Abbottabad operation.”
The top leadership of all institutions will inform lawmakers about the challenges currently being faced by the country in a joint, in-camera session of the Parliament tomorrow (Friday), he added.
Gilani stayed in the upper house for only 24 minutes, briefing the senators about the Abbottabad raid but denying them any opportunity to ask questions.
“General Kayani was the first one who rang me up at 2am on May 2 and informed me about the operation,” saying “it seems that it was a US armed forces’ raid on a compound in Abbottabad.”
Dispelling the impression that Pakistan has been isolated, Gilani said, “The United Kingdom, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia have supported Islamabad in these testing times.”
Gilani said Bin Laden was not a Pakistani citizen and was responsible for the deaths of more than 35,000 Pakistanis in the ongoing war against extremism. If there is any need to revisit the government’s policies, then the opposition should help us formulate better policies, he said.
After the address, senators from the treasury and opposition benches criticised the premier for repeating the rhetoric on the US raid.
Zahid Khan of the Awami National Party and Ishaq Dar of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said that the prime minister was not interested in taking the Parliament into confidence on the issue.
“Under the 18th Amendment, the prime minister is duty bound to hear the views of senators on this burning issue, despite their walkouts earlier this week,” Khan said.
Meanwhile, Salim Saifullah Khan endorsed Gilani’s concern over threat to state sovereignty in the aftermath of Bin Laden’s death.
He criticised the opposition leaders who were joining and leaving the cabinet at a time when the county is going through a rough patch.
“Democracy cannot be productive where strong opposition is lacking,” he said.
Handing over Osama’s family
Khalid Mehmood Soomro of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and Mir Lashkari Raisani of the Pakistan Peoples Party demanded that the government should not hand over Bin Laden’s family to the United States. “The family members should be handed over to their respective countries,” they suggested.
Lawmakers also sought a ruling from the Senate Chairman on the issue of increasing load shedding across the country. They requested that he call the minister for water and power to address the issue in the upper house.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2011.
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