ISLAMABAD: As the government-judiciary conflict heads towards a potential showdown, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is adamant not to leave office as the premier who resigned.
“There’s no need to step down. If I’m convicted [of contempt of court], then I’m not supposed to be a member of the parliament,” Gilani said in a wide-ranging interview with Al Jazeera television, which was broadcast on Saturday.
The prime minister was responding to a question on whether he would resign for the sake of President Asif Ali Zardari, whose riches from alleged corruption are at the centre of the matter. Gilani, through his counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, is pleading that he is not in contempt of court for failing to comply with the Supreme Court’s orders to write a letter to Swiss authorities in the National Reconciliation Ordinance case.
“There had been a lot of cases against him, and they were all politically motivated,” Gilani said, referring to Zardari. “He has got immunity. And he has not got immunity only in Pakistan, he has transnational immunity, even all over the world.”
Gilani is due to appear before the court on February 13 to hear whether he is found guilty of contempt.
Speaking about his relations with the army, the prime minister said that he had “good relations” with the military “at the moment”. That has not been the case recently, as Gilani made a statement in China that was perceived as criticism of the military, prompting the Pakistan Army to issue a stern response and even ask the prime minister to “apologise”, according to some reports.
The prime minister categorically stated that authorities in Islamabad have never approved US drone strikes. “I want to inform you that we did not allow or give permission to fly drones from Pakistan, he said. “Number two, drones are counterproductive. And we had discussed thoroughly with the US administration that we at times make a lot of efforts to very successfully isolate militants from the local tribes.”
Drone attacks generate a negative reaction, he said, with tribesmen in areas bordering Afghanistan. “Then the local tribes and the militants, they get united again,” he said. “They make our jobs extremely difficult. Then there is less political space for us.”
Pakistan, Gilani said, backed any Afghan-led plan to establish peace in the neighbouring country and in no way supported Taliban insurgents.
“We are not supporting them. It’s not our job. Why should we support them?”
Gilani also said that regional rivals India and Pakistan could not afford more conflict and were ready to discuss the issues that have long hampered the normalisation of bilateral relations.
“We have agreed to discuss all our core issues, including the issue of Kashmir,” he said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story quoted the prime minister as saying that he will step down if convicted. However, he had said that he will not need to step down as he will automatically lose the premiership if held in contempt of court. The error is regretted.