ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has rubbished the impression that his administration was considering extending the tenure of the country’s top spymaster in an effort to heal its months-long rift with the security establishment.
Relations between the security establishment and the PPP-led coalition government have been bedevilled by the infamous Memogate scandal which is yet to see its drop-scene.
With Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha retiring this March, rumours have swirled about the government granting him a possible extension.
“It’s disinformation that meetings with the military brass prior to my departure for Davos were meant to ease the tensions with them,”
the prime minister told journalists upon returning from the Swiss city where he attended the World Economic Forum.
The premier refused to comment on his statement about the replies submitted by army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Gen Pasha in the apex court in the Memogate case.
“Things are settling down. I’ve sacked the person who was responsible for the chaos and I don’t want to re-open the much-debated issue as I’ve already clarified the situation,” he said, referring to former defence secretary Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Naeem Lodhi.
Opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazlur Rehman Group) have been calling for snap elections.
To this demand, the prime minister said, “With the passage of the fifth budget, the election year starts and we are of the view that early elections are likely after the budget.”
Gilani said that his government would take all political parties into confidence and try and evolve a consensus on the 20th constitutional amendment bill.
“In politics, bridges are built, not walls,” he added. “We want free, fair and transparent elections and a smooth transition will set a tradition for future.”
He reminded the media that his government had said last year that the next federal budget would be unveiled in May to parliamentarians to give more time to debate issues of their constituencies.
Reign of democracy
The prime minister credited both his government and the opposition for the smooth-sailing that democracy had the country.
He appreciated the opposition for making it possible for the president to address parliament, according to the schedule. “He (Asif Ali Zardari) will become the first president to address a joint sitting of parliament for the fifth time,” Gilani said.
The premier said that the rising death toll due to spurious medicines in Punjab was frightening and the nation was saddened by this tragedy. However, he noted with concern that officials in Punjab were blaming the federal government for “their own negligence”.
“The Punjab government is an obstacle in establishing a drug regulatory authority (DRA) … as the three provinces (Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) have agreed to the establishment of a DRA,” he claimed.
When asked about Punjab chief minister’s statement that he was ready to provide security to Mansoor Ijaz, the self-proclaimed whistleblower of the Memogate scandal, Gilani said: “Shahbaz Sharif’s statements cannot provoke me. I don’t want to criticise the provincial government as I’m the face of the Pakistan government abroad.”
On Pakistan’s relations with the United States, the prime minister said that his government made history by adopting a “free and open foreign policy”.
“We protected national interests (both) in letter and spirit,” he added. “Other political parties want to stop Nato supply routes through musical concerts, but the PPP government took practical steps and stopped the Nato supplies (in protest against the Nov 26, 2011 Nato air raids on Pakistani border posts),” he said referring to Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf, which has been a trenchant critic of US drone strikes and Pakistan’s cooperation in the war against terror.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2012.