Feb 28, 2009

PM vows level playing field in Punjab

Announces opening of provincial assembly doors By Asim YasinISLAMABAD: Pledging new efforts for the reconciliatory politics that has been put on the back burner following the Supreme Court verdict, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani assured the National Assembly on Saturday that if the PPP could not prove its majority in the Punjab Assembly, it would feel comfortable to sit on the opposition benches.“If we did not get the majority to form the government, we will not hesitate to sit on the opposition benches,” he said while addressing the lower house of parliament after the marathon speech of leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that lasted three hours.The PML-N parliamentarians were ready to boycott the session. They started raising the slogans but when the prime minister stood up, they came back to listen to his speech.The prime minister said there was concern that the federal government wanted to deprive the PML-N of right to rule the Punjab with the imposition of governor’s rule. “I can assure you there is no need for horse-trading,” he argued.The prime minister in a reconciliatory tone hinted that there was a difference of opinion in the PPP over the imposition of governor’s rule, but when the party took a decision, everyone had to follow the party line. “When the PPP took decision about the imposition of governor’s rule in the Punjab, the government was left with no option but to support the decision,” he added.The prime minister said, “We believe in reconciliation and want to take along all the people to save the system. For every wrong, there is a remedy. Every problem has its solution and I am sure that we will find the solution to governor’s rule in the Punjab as well,” he said.He assured the House that governor’s rule was imposed for two months and it would not be extended. “ Governor’s rule was imposed in the province but the assembly was not suspended and today the doors were also opened and the members could requisite the session of their House,” he said.The prime minister said the governor was empowered to convene a session of the assembly for ascertainment of the leader of the House any time, even tomorrow.Gilani said he had no idea as to what would be the Supreme Court’s verdict in Sharif brothers’ eligibility case.He insisted that he was unaware of the court’s verdict till it was announced. “I would not have invited Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to the Prime MinisterĂ­s House and urged reconciliation if I had been aware of the court verdict,” he said.He said immediately after the announcement of the verdict he made a telephonic call to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.The MNAs from PML-N who were continuously protesting and chanting slogans on their leaders’ disqualification and imposition of governor’s rule made no interruption in PM’s address.The prime minister said that he had advised his party MNAs not to respond to the opposition benches’ slogans, as he knew that the PML-N would protest in the session. “We need a policy of reconciliation at this time to save the system,” he added.Responding to opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s question about the summoning of the session in such an emergency, the prime minister said the government called the session immediately to discuss the situation. “It’s the house where you are free to express your views and apprehensions. You have freedom of expression here,” the PM said, requesting the opposition benches not to chant slogans as this practice according to him ruins sanctity of the Parliament.The prime minister said that the 1973 Constitution was a consensus document and it was our responsibility to safeguard it. He said the PPP was committed to undoing 17th Amendment in the constitution and would support a consensus bill for this purpose. “It is our firm resolve to undo the 17th Amendment when the consensus bill is moved in this regard in the House,” he added.The prime minister said the PPP and the PML-N had also opposed the constitution of the National Security Council that was a brainchild of the dictator. “We will not accept any institution which is not answerable to the Parliament so I had asked the Law Ministry to prepare a bill for winding up the National Security Council, which is an undemocratic institution,” he added.He said the government believed in strengthening the Parliament and therefore, the cabinet took the decision to convene the session of the National Assembly immediately to discuss the situation triggered by imposition of governor’s rule in the Punjab.Referring to the Swat peace deal, the prime minister said he directed the law minister to constitute a committee consisting of all the stakeholders to sort out the issues involved.He said the government was pursuing a policy of dialogue, development and deterrence to deal with the problem of militancy and extremism.About Nizam-e-Adl regulations in Swat, he said the same regulations were in vogue in the area under the British rule and even Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto also agreed to enforce these regulations back in 1994-95. “We should respect customs and traditions of the local people about quick dispensation of justice,” he said.The prime minister reminded the opposition that the president is also a part of the Parliament and he should be given due respect. “The 1973 Constitution is a present by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the PPP believes in the supremacy of the constitution and will perform its due role to safeguarding it,” he said.

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