LAHORE: Vowing to abide by the Constitution, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Sunday said the issue of presidential immunity could only be decided by parliament and should be referred to it.
“If I were the chief justice, I would have referred the issue to parliament. It is the prerogative of parliament, alone, alone and alone, to rewrite the Constitution,” said the premier, while talking to representatives of the print media at the State Guest House here on Sunday.
“Why did we spend so much time if we had to write a letter. Parliament is the real authority on the issue and I will do everything as per the Constitution,” said PM Gilani, while responding to a question regarding presidential immunity and the Supreme Court’s order to the premier to write to the Swiss authorities for reopening the cases against President Zardari.
Gilani said the same parliament comprising 442 members unanimously passed 18th, 19th and 20th amendments, but none of the members raised any objection to the issue of presidential immunity.
“I myself cannot waive the immunity and the issue should be referred to parliament,” Gilani said. He said under the international law, president, prime minister and foreign minister enjoyed immunity, adding the issue could not be decided by individuals, but by parliament.
About the Mehran Bank scandal, PM Gilani said the case should have been taken up much earlier as its movers had grown very old now.
About the memo scandal, Gilani said he had been statingthat the memo was a non-issue and had no worth. About the PPP government’s relations with the army, he said both had very pleasant relations. About the appointment of new DG ISI, he said the decision had been made on merit as the new ISI chief was a competent person.
About the Balochistan issue, the PM said the PPP was genuinely striving for the betterment of people and he would consult all the stakeholders on the issue whether they wanted an APC, Jirga or if there was any other option they wanted to suggest.
About the defeat of PPP candidate Aslam Gill in the Senate elections, he said though the inquiry into the matter was underway, his party had always discouraged horse-trading.
He said before the Senate elections, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif held a meeting with him which evolved a consensus that all political parties in the house would be respected to avert the chances of horse-trading. However, the premier stated what happened afterwards was before everyone now.
About the early elections, the PM said previously, his theory was to achieve ‘high targets’ but now it was to achieve the ‘nearest target’ which was the budget. He said a lot was stated about the Senate polls, but the government held it and it would also come up with the fifth budget and Asif Zardari would become the first president to address joint session of parliament.
The premier said he would consult all the stakeholders in parliament, particularly his coalition partners and come up with a unanimous decision about the timing of the general elections.
He alleged that the PPP opponents were hatching a conspiracy before the Senate elections to fail the process, but the government held the elections successfully. “Now, they are again hatching conspiracies,” he added.
About a new province in south Punjab, he said the PPP was not allowed to table a resolution in the Punjab Assembly in support of the demand, but it was also working on other options.
The PM earlier also went to the residence of former PPP candidate for Senate Ch Aslam Gill and appreciated his commitment with the party. In a brief chat with the media, Gilani said the issue of Gill’s defeat was being probed, but the party would certainly accommodate him.
Agencies add: PM Gilani said former military ruler Pervez Musharraf had no right or mandate to change the Constitution, as it was the prerogative of parliament. He said after the budget in May this year, consultations with the coalition partners would be held about holding general elections.
Replying to a question, PM Gilani said the total number of missing persons in Balochistan was 49. About the PPP’s chances of winning the next elections, he said the people genuinely trusted his party, which was an ideological one and had deep roots in the people.
Questioned on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project and objections raised by the US, Gilani said the funding arrangements had been made to install the pipeline on the Pakistani side while other formalities were under process.
The prime minister said the chairman as well as deputy chairman of the Senate would take oath of their offices on Monday (today).
About writing a letter to the Swiss government, the PM said he would not take advice from anybody but would work in accordance with the Constitution.
About the PML-N, he said it would have to face court proceedings for the first time in the Asghar Khan case. He said the media was somehow complicating two cases. He said one case was of contempt of court in which he was being represented by Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, while the other was being heard somewhere else in which he had no counsel.
Earlier, Prime Minister Gilani condoled with the family of late Tariq Masih Gill, who passed away on March 1. The PM expressed deep grief and sorrow on the demise of Gill and remained with the family for some time.
The prime minister also distributed cheques among the victims of Moon Market blast at the State Guest House here on Sunday. Each of the 12 received a cheque for Rs100,000 in a simple ceremony, which was also attended by federal ministers Rehman Malik and Samina Khalid Ghurki, PPP Secretary-General Jahangir Badr and other PPP leaders.