ISLAMABAD: Not far from the National Assembly hall where the members of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz mounted vociferous protests on Wednesday and called for ouster of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani after his conviction on charges of contempt of court, it was business as usual in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.
In the morning, Prime Minister Gilani attended an all-important meeting held at the Presidency on regional security whereas in the evening he was chief guest at a ceremony organised by the Pakistan Scout Association. During the day despite discharging his official duties he met an MQM delegation and other politicians at the secretariat.
The meeting in the morning was quite important which he co-chaired with President Asif Ali Zardari. Other participants of the meeting included Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Minister for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Secretary General to the President Salman Farooqi, Ambassador to US Sherry Rehman, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani, ISI DG Lieutenant General Zaheerul Islam and Finance Secretary Abdul Wajid Rana.
From the meeting, which the prime minister attended as the sitting chief executive of the country, nobody could guess that Gilani’s job was on the line.
Prime Minister Gilani once again got an assurance for support from the MQM, an allied party in the centre and Sindh, when its delegation called on him.
“An MQM delegation expressed solidarity with the coalition democratic government led by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. The delegation of the MQM parliamentarians and members of the Rabita Committee, who called on the prime minister, appreciated his efforts for upholding the cause of Constitution and democracy,” said an official statement after the meeting. The message is loud and clear that the MQM is standing behind Gilani even after his conviction.
Right of appeal
Talking to journalists after attending a ceremony arranged by the Pakistan Scouts Association, Gilani said once the Supreme Court would release a detailed judgment on his conviction, it was his right to go into appeal.
About the perceived clash between the judiciary and executive in the country, the prime minister said as long as individuals and institutions functioned within their constitutional limits, there would be no clash.
The prime minister said: “It is responsibility of every individual and institution to follow the Constitution.”
In reply to a question about appointment of new judges in the Supreme Court, Gilani said that the ministry of law and justice would decide the issue.
“I have already attended ongoing sessions of the two houses of parliament,” said the prime minister, when a questioner sought his reaction to the PML-N’s threat of not allowing him to enter the National Assembly.
PM’s visit to UK
Some in the PPP believe considering the ongoing PML-N protest demonstrations and the SC’s yet to be released detailed judgment on his conviction, Prime Minister should opt out or postpone the visit, but sources at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat told Dawn, as of Wednesday the visit was very much on.
“Yes, there is one suggestion that the PM should review his planned visit to the UK, but Gilani himself and a majority of his cabinet colleagues fell that going ahead with the visit will further strengthen his position in the political arena both at national and international levels,” a top official said.
PS of PM missing
One top official conspicuous by his absence at the PM’s Secretariat on Wednesday was the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Khushnood Lashari.
“Lashari is unwell and not coming to the office for the past 10 days,” said another official. Heard on grapevine, Lashari, since eruption of the ephedrine scandal in which he had been named as one of the main accused alongside younger son of Prime Minister, Ali Musa Gilani, has been facing serious health issues.
“Whether he is genuinely involved in the scandal or not, the issue has taken a real toll on his health,” said one of his colleagues at the PM Secretariat.