DAVOS: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani rejected on Thursday a suggestion that democracy was under threat and a ‘creeping coup’ was taking place in Pakistan, asserting that the parliament, the civil society, media, intelligentsia and, above all, the nation wanted democracy to continue.
In an interview to the BBC’s Nik Gowing at the World Economic Forum, Mr Gilani spoke on a wide range of issues being faced by the country.
He described as unfortunate the deaths of over 100 heart patients in Lahore from faulty drugs and said the Punjab government was already holding an inquiry into the case, adding that he would not like to comment on that before the inquiry report came when asked about the update on what was happening in Lahore. He said the interior ministry was also looking into the matter.
Gowing: Mr prime minister, I have listed some of the tensions and confrontations that you are now facing back home in your country. Many observers believe that a creeping coup was somehow taking place in your country with the army tightening its grip on the levers of power. Are you really in charge?
Gilani: Certainly yes and therefore what you have hinted that the army wants to bring a coup that is not true.
Gowing: Are you in charge? Do you feel under challenge from the military still?
Gilani: No. Not at all.
Gowing: There are those who fear that Pakistan is now a failing state with democracy under threat.
Gilani: Democracy is not under threat. The people, the civil society, the intelligentsia and the parliament and the media everybody wants democracy and even the military wants democracy. Therefore, there is no threat to Pakistan vis-à-vis democracy is concerned.
Gowing: You had a meeting with the military leadership just before you came here to Davos. What guarantees did they give you and what guarantees did you give them?
Gilani: No. They called on me. The foreign minister, the chief of the army staff and the ISI DG called on me. We discussed the security situation in Afghanistan and that was the agenda.
Gowing: Do you control the military as the elected government and the prime minister of the elected government?
Gilani: I follow the Constitution and everybody has to abide by the Constitution.
APP adds: Later, talking to reporters, the prime minister rejected talk of a clash among state institutions and said all stakeholders backed democracy.
Mr Gilani said since several things were happening at the same time, it was being felt that there was some kind of a clash.
He recalled his statement to a foreign channel earlier this month which led to speculation that there were some differences between the army and the government. He, however, said that all institutions were working within the ambit of the Constitution.
Mr Gilani recalled that following his statement the person who was responsible was removed, alluding to the sacking of the defence secretary on Jan 11. “And since he has been removed I have nothing against them.”
About his meeting with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director General of ISI, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, before his departure for the World Economic Forum, Mr Gilani said it focussed on security matters related to Afghanistan.
In reply to a question about Mansoor Ijaz’s refusal to visit Pakistan, Mr Gilani said he was summoned by the court and he was not in a position to offer any comment on the matter as the issue was sub judice.
Answering a question about Imran Khan, Mr Gilani said he (Mr Imran) did not contest the general election in 2008 and never succeeded in even by-elections. It seemed that his party line was not to contest elections.
About holding of general election after the Senate election, Mr Gilani said it was the prerogative of the government and the era of 58-2b had gone, adding that the government would hold Senate elections before presentation of the budget in May.