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Nothing wrong in a new alliance, says Gilani

April 25, 2011

Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani addressing a press conference. – AP File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the National Assembly on Monday there was nothing wrong in his PPP-led government seeking new allies, after the opposition leader denounced what he called a new power-sharing “drama” on show and intelligence-meddling in politics.

Mr Gilani said if his party could have coalitions with other parties in the provinces and at the centre, he didn’t think there was any deviation from principles “if a similar adjustment is made with another party”.

“We are all equals,” he said about the status of parties elected to parliament before citing PPP’s coalitions after the 2008 elections, including one short-lived with the PML-N at the centre and another for three years in Punjab, and added: “It is up to the leaders of the parties to decide (about cooperation).”

Neither the prime minister nor opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan named PML-N’s rival PML-Q, which has been a subject of intense speculation for weeks as a possible new entrant to Mr Gilani’s three-year coalition to give it a comfortable majority in parliament.

But it was the first time the possibility of one-time bitter foes becoming allies was talked about so loudly, with Chaudhry Nisar threatening to expose “this drama being staged” — or what he called “bandarbant of power” — inside and outside the assembly.

The prime minister assured the opposition leader that “we will certainly respond” if he shared information with the government vis-à-vis his concerns about the role of intelligence agencies.

Chaudhry Nisar, in his speech earlier, threatened to expose in the house “where agencies are playing political games, with whom they have contacts … and (to whom) funds are being given”. He said that some “senior members” of his own party had also been approached by such agencies.

He said to unspecified “many issues” coming to his notice as chairman of the house Public Accounts Committee and said he had not dealt with them as opposition leader.

But he said he had “come too close” to a situation where he would be forced to make disclosures. “Don’t compel me to bring these issues before the house.”

The opposition talked of almost issues he had repeatedly raised in the house since the start of the session on April 11 ranging from ties with the United States to the rising petroleum prices and the prime minister reiterated the government position, including that Inter-Services Intelligence chief visited Washington earlier this month in pursuance of 60-year-old defence, intelligence and economic cooperation between the two countries, and said the defence secretary too would go there, following a visit by the foreign secretary.

Mr Gilani suggested to the opposition leader to move under the rules for a debate on petroleum prices and said the government would consider if he had any formula to reduce the prices.

Responding to the opposition leader’s complaint that talking in the assembly had become “meaningless”, the prime minister said he had “never taken this house non-seriously” and apologised for some problems during the question hour caused by the absence of Minister of State for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar because of her visit to Saudi Arabia and of PPP chief whip Khursheed Ahmed Shah due to illness.