ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court’s warning to the government to comply with the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) verdict – which includes an order to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against the president – has not shaken the ruling party’s resolve.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) core committee meeting on Thursday decided to stick to its stand that President Asif Ali Zardari has immunity as president under the Constitution – hence the government could not write a letter to Swiss authorities.
The court, expressing anger at the delay in implementing a verdict that it had passed over a year ago, said flatly on January 2 that the government had one week to show compliance – else it would take action against those responsible, regardless of their rank and status.
Amid heightened political tensions, Thursday’s meeting led by President Asif Ali Zardari and attended by key PPP leaders, chalked out strategies on key issues facing the government and the ruling party – including a decision to stick to their guns on the president’s immunity in the courts of law, both inside and outside the country.
In addition, sources privy to the meeting said that to show solidarity with Babar Awan and other PPP leaders facing contempt of court notices, the party’s ministers and MNAs would accompany these leaders to the Supreme Court on the day of hearing of their cases.
“This meeting was not specifically convened to discuss legal issues but the topic came up during the meeting. We have no doubt in our mind that the president enjoys immunity, be it in Swiss cases or the Memo case in our court,” a PPP leader said, requesting anonymity.
The PPP leader went on to add that party leaders would accompany Awan and others who had been served contempt of court notices to remind the court that they were the same people who had struggled for the independence of the judiciary.
Furthermore, the core committee also decided that it would begin warming up for its election campaign by holding public rallies at the district and divisional level this month. President PPP K-P chapter Senator Sardar Ali has also been asked to make preparations for holding a public rally in the tribal areas.
“Right now, our focus is the Senate elections. The party leadership realises that this year can be election year. Every party at this stage starts preparations. There is nothing unusual in this,” a PPP leader said when asked if his party was expecting early elections.
Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the core committee had called for immediate polls on all vacant seats of the National and Provincial assemblies. He added that the party would also begin a consultative process with coalition partners on the issue of the formation of new provinces.
“Appropriate legislative measures will soon be adopted in the Parliament for the carving out of a Seraiki province in light of the consultations with political partners,” Babar said.
As a part of its electioneering campaign, the government will release funds to PPP legislators so they, in turn, can begin development projects in their respective constituencies, Babar added. Also, the government will try to address gas and power shortages by releasing funds to independent power producers (IPPs) in the coming months. A committee led by Petroleum Minister Asim Hussain had also been tasked to hold talks with stakeholders in Sindh to share some of the gas produced in Sindh with Punjab.
The spokesperson went on to add that the meeting hailed the cabinet decision on Wednesday to amend the 1964 Promotion and Service Rules requiring mandatory publication of details of assets of everyone drawing remunerations from public exchequer, including civil servants and people in armed forces and judiciary. The core committee also welcomed the prime minister’s announcement to lift a ban on government jobs and decided that a notification in this regard would be issued soon, the spokesperson added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2012.