Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani addressing at the Senate Session on Abbottabad incident at Parliament House, Islamabad on May 11, 2011. – Online Photo

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called on Wednesday for strengthening state institutions, enabling them to work in harmony in order to protect national interests.

“We are at the crossroads today and the situation demands resolve and commitment of the nation to stand by the state institutions and defend our geographical and ideological frontiers,” he said during his first appearance in the Senate after the Abbottabad episode.

He left the house soon after his speech, without listening to views of Senators who often criticise him for rarely visiting the upper house of parliament.

Mr Gilani observed that no opportunity should be provided to others to cast an evil eye on the country. He said the situation demanded more coordination between the political forces and all state institutions.

He said it was not the time for point-scoring but putting heads together to devise a comprehensive and workable strategy to safeguard the country. “We may have different perceptions of the situation but all are patriots and want to overcome these challenges.”

The prime minister said Osama bin Laden was involved in heinous crimes and Al Qaeda was responsible for killing thousands of innocent Pakistanis during the past few years.

He said the government had convened an in camera session of parliament on Friday in which the parliamentarians would be briefed about the situation. A meeting of the defence committee of the cabinet has also been convened later this month to review the situation.

The prime minister paid tributes to those soldiers who had laid down their lives in defence of the nation, calling upon people to stand by the armed forces in the fight against terrorism. He said the government had adopted a policy to develop all parts of the country across the board. He said no discrimination was being made with any part of the country regarding socio-economic development.

He said the ministry of finance had been directed to listen to the complaints of all provinces about development projects.

OPPOSITION’S CRITICISM: The prime minister’s statement did not satisfy the opposition, which criticised him for ignoring the basic question of violation of country’s sovereignty by the US.

Speaking on a point of order, Parliamentary Leader of PML-N in the Senate Ishaq Dar lamented that the prime minister did not utter a single word on violation of country’s sovereignty by the US forces. He also lambasted him for his attitude towards the upper house of parliament, saying he did not make the same statement in the Senate as he made in the National Assembly on the Abbottabad incident.

“It is virtually a contempt that…the prime minister made a speech in haste and left without listening to the members’ point of view,” he remarked.

Endorsing his views, the ANP’s Zahid Khan said Mr Gilani should have stayed in the house to listen to the members’ points of view and answer them.

RABBANI, PARTY AT ODDS: PPP leader Raza Rabbani, who recently quit the federal cabinet, brought more embarrassment for the government by rejecting its claim that state institutions of the country were on the same page and in harmony on national issues, pointing out that there was contradiction between the statements of the foreign office and other institutions regarding the incident.

Speaking on a point of order, he sought complete harmony amongst state institutions, particularly on sensitive matters.

Mr Rabbani also condemned the statement of Interior Minister Rehman Malik that the government would give the US access to widows of Osama bin Laden. Instead, they should be repatriated to their respective countries, he added.

Lashkari Raisani said that it would be a “historic blunder” if the government handed over Osama’s family to the US. “These purdah-observing women of Osama’s family should not be handed over to the US rather they must be repatriated to the country concerned to decide their fate,” he demanded.

Khalid Soomro also opposed handing over Osama’s family to the US saying the government should not earn this ‘humiliation’.

Kalsoom Parveen said that the family should not be handed over to the US. “Let us not ruin our world-after for the sake of worldly interests,” she advised.

Salim Saifullah urged the government to hold a judicial and parliamentary inquiry into the incident.

He criticised the PPP-PML-Q power-sharing deal saying those blamed for the miseries of people during the past three years have joined the government now. “What kind of democracy it is… democracy cannot flourish sans a strong opposition,” he said.

S.M. Zafar said: “These are the defining moments for Pakistan. Does a sovereign state ever allow foreign boots on its soil…? We want our political leadership as angry as the people of this country are,” he said and added that the government’s response on the incident was apologetic. He warned that if injustices were not addressed, Osama would rise from the seabed in the shape of a tsunami.

Bemoaning the “apathy and inaction of the government”, Mr Zafar sought a reply from the quarters concerned whether the US had been given a formal approval for drone strikes inside Pakistan. He said the prime minister needed to treat the Abbottabad incident as a naked aggression against the country.

“If the drone strikes continue, we must say with one voice goodbye to the US on the issue of war on terror,” he said. He believed the US invaded Pakistan under the pretext of trust deficit and said it was comical to call it a US victory.

Ilyas Bilour, who was chairing the session, objected to the views expressed by Mr Zafar, saying Osama should have used the soil of his own country for waging a war.

Azam Khan Swati criticised Mr Bilour and said he should not have expressed his personal views while chairing the session.

Safdar Abbasi said that Pakistan had two options: surrender to the US as Finland did before the USSR or take a firm stand on the question of its sovereignty. He maintained that all those creating ‘trouble’ for the US now were once patronised by the same superpower.

The house will meet again on Thursday.