ON BOARD PM SPECIAL PLANE: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said his government is in no hurry to reopen Nato supply routes and a decision to that effect will be taken only after evolving a consensus at the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.
During an informal chat with media personnel on board a special plane on way back home after attending the Boao Forum conference in China, Mr Gilani said: “Let the committee, which has representation from all political parties in parliament, decide what they want. The government has not set a timeframe for the committee to complete its deliberations and will wait for a final outcome.”
Referring to the recently held all-inclusive meeting on the issue of Nato supply lines which were closed after an attack on the Salala checkpost in November, he said had his government wanted to enforce its own decision, “there would have been no fun in sitting late up to 2am in the morning and listening to opposition parties”.
The March 29 meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat was attended by leaders of almost all political parties and the military top brass, including the army and ISI chiefs.
The prime minister said since it was a national security issue, the government wanted everybody on board. He expressed the hope that the government would be able to reach a solution which would be accepted by all parties.
But when a member of his delegation was asked about the background discussions on the issue of reopening of Nato supply routes, he said: “If you ask me to explain the situation in so many words, we are virtually caught between the devil and the deep sea.”
Although opposition parties had agreed that Pakistan could not afford a hostile posturing towards Nato countries for a long time, in public they were playing politics with the issue, said the federal minister who didn’t want to be named.
On the other hand, he said, the military authorities wanted the government to develop a consensus among political forces and resolve the issue on an emergency basis.
With the passage of time, the United States and its allies are getting impatient and pushing Pakistan hard for a favourable outcome, that is, the reopening of supply routes. And they want it without any further delay and hard conditions.
The sole purpose of convening the last week’s meeting was to make all stakeholders, especially opposition parties and the military leadership, sit together and express their points of view. The minister said it turned out to be a good exercise because it took some pressure off the government.
“Why the PPP should take the blame for siding with the Americans at this point and time when anti-American sentiment is running high among the masses. Let the PML-N and other political forces come clean on the subject,” he said.
When a number of questions relating to the energy crisis, particularly prolonged loadshedding across the country, were hurled at the prime minister, he snapped: “Do you really think the PPP government is not aware of all this and does not want to address this.”
He said the issue wasn’t as simple as it looked. It involved circular debt, line losses and overall governance in the power sector, which the government was trying to address to the best of its abilities, he said, adding that at an energy conference to be held next week in Lahore, the centre would seek input from the provincial governments how best “we all can get rid of this problem”.
“Very few people know that the federal government has allowed the provinces to go for electricity generation at their own. Putting the entire blame of electricity shortage on my government is unfair,” Mr Gilani responded to a question.
Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, who was accompanying the prime minister, said the budget-making exercise was very much on track and the government was planning to present the next budget on May 25.