ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Tuesday strongly rebuffed calls for political change in the country, ruling out the possibility of snap elections or a military takeover.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Gilani insisted his administration was not failing to deliver to those who had voted his Pakistan Peoples Party to power.
In an apparently ‘angry’ reaction to a demand for mid-term polls from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the premier said it was possible under the constitution only if he himself dissolved the National Assembly or martial law was declared.
But he hastened to add that neither would he dissolve the assembly nor would the military go for the extreme step. “I will not dissolve the assembly. I will protect it,” vowed Gilani amidst applause from lawmakers in the treasury benches.
The prime minister said the military was supporting democracy and would never try to oust the elected government.
“The military is ours. It is Pakistan’s military. It will never impose a martial law,” Gilani told the House after a PML-N legislator blamed the government for failing to govern, saying that “the government’s inefficiency” could invite another dictatorship.
Lawmaker Hanif Abbasi said mid-term elections were the need of the hour to “kick out an administration whose inaction is making the lives of people miserable and deteriorating the law and order situation.” Abbasi’s speech provoked Gilani to jump into the debate immediately.
The tone and tenor of the premier’s short and uncharacteristically harsh speech did not reflect the usual ‘reconciliatory’ side of his personality.
He sounded angry, his voice became louder and his body language went bizarre when he challenged those demanding midterm polls. “They want to tear the country apart,” Gilani said.
The statement came a day after Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the PML-N, to which he belongs, was seriously considering demanding mid-term polls to get rid of the present rulers.
“It is one of the options we are considering,” Khan told journalists on Monday as PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif convened a crucial meeting of the party’s bigwigs in Islamabad on Friday.
Though the reorganisation of the party is the only declared agenda of the meeting, insiders say Sharif’s party has already started its overtures to seek new political alignments for bringing in a no-confidence motion against the prime minister. Two close associates of Sharif told The Express Tribune that Senator Raja Zafarul Haq last week met the head of the rival PML-Q in Lahore to seek his support for this purpose. But the talks between the two parties could not make any headway because the PML-Q wanted to see what it could gain from a possible deal with the Nawaz League.
A couple of days back, Sharif’s younger brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in a move that has triggered speculation.
Though there has been relative calm in the political arena after months of speculation, Gilani’s statement is likely to trigger a fresh guessing game about the fate of the government.
Earlier, PPP lawmaker Sherry Rehman called a protest last month allegedly by her party’s workers outside her house in Karachi as “shocking”. Though not explicitly, she appeared to be blaming the top leaders of her party for staging the demonstration and regretted that there has not been any condemnation or explanation from the party.
“It is shocking… this is a new trend in politics. I condemn it,” said Rehman whose house in Karachi was surrounded by several PPP activists in protest against her participation in a television talk show.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2010.
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