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Central & South Asia
Pakistan PM says democracy at stake
Parliament urged to put faith in civilian government and state institutions to operate within bounds of constitution.
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2012 11:47
Gilani's government faces a serious challenge from both the powerful military and the higher judiciary [GALLO/GETTY]

With his government at risk of dissolution, Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, has called on parliament to choose between democracy and dictatorship.

Seeking support from their coalition partners, members of Gilani's ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), taking part in an emergency parliamentary session on Friday, introduced a resolution to endorse democracy .

To be debated in the lower house on Monday, the resolution expressed "full confidence and trust" in the current civilian government.

The resolution also calls for all state institutions to operate within the bounds of the nation's constitution, a statement believed to be an affront to the nation's powerful military, which has been accused of interfering in the nation's political matters.

“It must be decided whether there will be democracy in the country or dictatorship,” Gilani said of the confidence vote.

Military and judiciary

In his address, Gilani said "we are not against any institution", referring to both the military and judiciary by name.

The mandate is expected to pass. Though its failure would not have an immediate effect on the PPP, it could further hamper the functioning of the already unpopular government.

Gilani is to hold on Saturday a cabinet defence-committee meeting believed to be intended to help defuse tensions between his government and the army.

The resolution comes amid the fallout of last year's memo-gate scandal, in which an unsigned memorandum addressed to Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, called on the Obama administration to thwart a military takeover of the civilian government.

The apparent provocation was the US raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda chief, in May.

Gilani's address came on the day that Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan president, returned from an overnight trip to Dubai.

Zardari's second trip to the Gulf state in as many months led to renewed speculation that he was fleeing before he could be toppled by the nation's powerful military.

'Perfectly all right'

Zardari's spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said on Zardari's return that “he is comfortable and perfectly all right”.

Monday is also when a full 17-member supreme court decision is due on the government's response to a six-point “do-or-die” ultimatum given to the government to reopen old corruption cases against Zardari and others.

The corruption cases were originally stopped after the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance, a corruption amnesty issued by the government of Pervez Musharraf, the former president.

The possible outcomes of the court's decision has led to new talks of a “constitutional coup”, rather than a military one, in which the supreme court would pursue a course of action that would lead to the government's removal.

The high court has described Gilani as "not an honest man".

Source:
Agencies
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