Naveedul Hassan Qutbi
VEHARI – Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday defiantly rejected a purported demand from the army chief that he clarify or retract his criticism of the army, a day ahead of the crucial Supreme Court hearing relating to graft cases that could have a decisive bearing on the current crisis gripping the nation.
Gilani said he was the prime minister of 180 million people and only answerable to the parliament. “I will not answer to any individual as I am answerable to parliament,” the beleaguered prime minister told journalists in the backdrop of reports that Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had told President Asif Ali Zardari to ask the prime minister clarify or retract his criticism of the army and the ISI.
“If anyone has any complaints, I will not answer to any individual as I am answerable to parliament… Whenever parliament wants, I can present my viewpoint before parliament,” Gilani said after offering fateha over the death of Parliamentary Secretary Mian Azeem Daultana in Vehari.
Gilani denied reports that Zardari had sought an explanation or asked him to retract his remarks made last week in an interview with a Chinese media organisation. He also said he did not know the details of the meeting between the president and the COAS as no one was present there. He further said the presidential spokesman has denied media reports that the COAS has demanded a clarification or withdrawal of the statement.
Tensions between the government and the military reached a peak last week after Gilani said the army and intelligence chiefs had acted in an “unconstitutional and illegal” manner by filing affidavits on the memo issue in the Supreme Court without getting the government’s approval. The military rebuked Gilani, saying his remarks could have “grievous consequences”. Gilani retaliated the same day by sacking Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (r) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, a confidant of Kayani, saying he had created misunderstandings over the memo issue.
Gilani, however, showed no signs of backing down. “What I said was not an accusation… We want there to be respect for the constitution, rule of law, and all institutions to work within their limits. I said just one thing, that rules and procedures were not followed. And that was the defence secretary’s fault, for which we removed him from his post.”
Gilani said if the opposition wants to bring a new prime minister, it can do so as provided in the constitution. “I never said that I should remain prime minister for five years,” but it was important that parliament completes its five-year term, he said. “We would welcome if anyone wants to bring in a new prime minister, according to the constitution.” Gilani said that all the institutions should work in their domains. To a question, he said despite all the conspiracies, Senate elections would be held on schedule. He said he was not appearing in the Supreme Court along with cabinet in the NRO implementation case. The PM expressed his hope that people of southern Punjab would soon have their own province. He said that his govt was taking all the political parties into confidence on this matter and they will soon present a resolution for the new province in the National Assembly.
The prime minister reached Thingi Airbase at 12 noon and reached at Luddon, the home town of Azeem Khan Daultana, on helicopter from the airbase. He stayed at Ludden for one hour. Qamar Zaman Kaira, Manzoor Wattoo, Khursheed Shah were also accompanied the prime minister. Multan RPO Mubarak Ali Athar, commissioner Khurram Agha, Tahir Iqbal Chaudhry, Malik Nosher Langraial, Sheharyar Khan Daultana were also present on the occasion. The PM expressed his deep grief on sudden death of Azeem Daultana and termed it a great loss for the party.