Gilani rejects trust vote as Zardari returns home (Second Lead)

January 13th, 2012 - 6:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, Jan 13 (IANS) The day Pakistani President Asaf Ali Zardari returned home from a private visit to Dubai, embattled Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday rejected out of hand a vote of confidence and asked parliament to decide whether there would be “democracy or dictatorship”.

Gilani was speaking at the National Assembly amid a lingering stand-off between the country’s political leadership and the strong military.

“I do not need to take vote of confidence from the National Assembly as this house had unanimously elected me the prime minister,” Gilani said.

The prime minister said those ruling are not against any institution, a reference to the army which had spoken of “serious ramifications” after Gilani accused army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI chief Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha of violating the constitution.

Gilani spoke a few hours after Zardari returned home cutting short his day’s private visit to Dubai.

Zardari’s sudden departure for Dubai took place Thursday, a day after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani asserted his authority by dismissing defence secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired lieutenant general widely seen to be close to army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

All eyes were on the national assembly proceeding Friday where Gilani said the constitution must be respected by everyone and added the ruling coalition did not come to the National Assembly to get support on the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

In 2009, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) withdrew the cases against President Asif Ali Zardari under the National Reconciliation Ordinance of 2007. The ordinance was issued by then president Parvez Musharraf, facilitating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband Zardari to return to Pakistan. But, in December 2009, the Supreme Court struck down the ordinance, declaring it void.

Gilani’s statement came just three days after the country’s Supreme Court warned action could be taken against him for failing to act on an apex court order to reopen graft cases against Zardari.

Gilani said they also did not come in parliament to get support against any institution.

“We (Pakistan Peoples Party) have not come into government to become martyrs,” Gilani said, adding that the PPP would not beg to stay in government. “Democracy is all that matters.”

“We should decide whether or not democracy or dictatorship should rule the country,” Online news agency quoted him as saying.

Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has had four spells of military rule — headed by Field Marshal Ayub Khan, Gen.Yahya Khan, Gen.Zia ul-Haq and Gen.Pervez Musharraf.

Gilani said: “If we’re out, you’re out, everyone is out (of government).”

“We are politicians; if we don’t make mistakes, who will?” he asked.

But democracy should not suffer for our mistakes, the prime minister added.

Gilani Wednesday asserted his authority by dismissing defence secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired lieutenant general widely seen to be close to army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

He said: “It is a matter of record that this government is the first to bring the Chief of Army Staff (General Kayani) before parliament.”

The prime minister was referring to a marathon joint sitting of the two houses in which the military top brass faced questions about Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s presence deep inside Pakistan. Osama was killed May 2 at his hideout in Abbottabad near Islamabad.

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