LAHORE: Quashing rumours of a regime change in the country, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has warned that any “unconstitutional” act against his democratically-elected government will be construed as a conspiracy to destabilise the federation.
“There is no threat to the government and those talking about a change are just wasting their time,” Gilani told participants at a ceremony organised by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Expo Centre on Saturday. “Those conspiring against us want to break up Pakistan,” Gilani said, adding that it would be unwise to push the PPP to the wall.
His statement came a day after the PPP big-wigs decided to counter propaganda against the government and defend democracy, come what may.
In an apparent move to reject any semblance of confrontation between the state organs, the premier said it was he who reinstated dozens of judges sacked by former president Pervez Musharraf. And it was he who extended the tenure of Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Gilani used his 20-minute speech to respond to the scathing criticism of his government’s performance, asking the detractors to “wait and let Pakistan prosper”. Democracy has not been gifted to us. “It’s the result of a long struggle against dictatorship – a struggle pioneered by slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto, the late politician Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan, Nawaz Sharif and others,” he said. However, in a veiled reference to his political rival, the premier said that in the past he was thrown into prison for providing jobs to the poor youth. And that he had rejected offers of freedom in return for cutting deals with a dictator. “I preferred the politics of principles and spent five years in jail,” he added.
The prime minister also claimed credit for restoring the judges and rejected the notion that it was done under pressure from General Kayani. He added that it was his government’s decision to extend the army chief’s tenure but some people were saying that it was done at America’s behest. “It’s our army, not the US’s,” he added.
For the first time in its history, he said, the country has a unanimously-elected prime minister and a president with a heavy mandate. Gilani recalled that when he was elected prime minister, critics used to predict that he was on a three-month probation. Later they extended it to six months. “It has been nearly two-and-a-half years now and I’m still the prime minister,” Gilani said.
The government has been under fire for not tackling the flood calamity properly. But the premier urged the critics not be “insane” as 20 million flood survivors were living without shelter.
He said the way the nation united under his democratically-elected government over the issues of NFC, 18th amendment, it would unite once again. He also quashed the impression that the government’s popularity was dwindling, saying that his party has won most by-elections. “We won seven seats out of nine by-elections,” he said.
Attendees at the function included Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Senator Waqar Ahmed Khan, Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali, MNA Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor and LCCI President Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2010.