ISLAMABAD - It may come as a surprise for many, but the ruling coalition and top leadership of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has accepted the apex court’s verdict that disqualified Yousaf Raza Gilani as the prime minister. Following Gilani’s ouster, Water and Power Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, Textiles Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khusrhid Shah and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar have emerged as strong candidates for the country’s top slot. However, the leaders of coalition partners would take a final decision in this regard.
PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman announced to accept the court order, while the PML-N, PTI hailed the landmark decision. Immediately after the court verdict, the top decision-making body of the ruling party – PPP central executive committee (CEC), decided to avoid a head-on collision with the apex court and accept the court decision after formal consultation with the coalition partners.
Sources in the PPP, however, said the party leadership had earlier decided to confront the court decision, but a last minute message from the powers that be made President Asif Ali Zardari review his strategy and it was decided to accept the court order and bring in a new prime minister to carry forward the democratic process. A PML-Q leader said Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani, in his meeting held in Saudi Arabia, had clarified that the army wanted the government to accept the court orders as the army wanted continuity of the democratic process. The first hint about the change of strategy from the Presidency came with the cancellation of a scheduled press conference of Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira at PID.
Later, Kaira addressed a joint press conference at the party’s central secretariat along with Jahangir Badr and Raja Parvez Ashraf. After the CEC meeting, which was jointly chaired by the PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and President Asif Ali Zardari, Gilani left the Presidency without the country’s flag on his car, clearly hinting that he was no more in the saddle. The ECP also held an emergency meeting and issued a notification disqualifying Gilani as MNA from NA-153, Multan constituency. Kaira and Jahangir Badr later told reporters that the PPP CEC had reviewed in detail the apex court verdict on disqualification of Gilani and authorized party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari to adopt a future course of action to deal with the situation emerging following the court verdict. Badr, Kaira and Raja Parvez Ashraf said the PPP CEC also decided to continue its consultation process to deal with the situation. “We have taken ahead the democratic process despite many hurdles and we will also make utmost efforts to safeguard the democratic process,” Kaira said. He said no decision was made in isolation in politics, therefore, the party had decided to start consultation process and a meeting with the allies had been convened for Tuesday night. Kaira said that the party’s leadership had directed its workers not to stage demonstrations against the court verdict to avoid any deterioration of law and order. “The Punjab government is already involved in provoking the people of Punjab to hold demonstrations against the federal government, which is tantamount to rebellion against the federal government,” Kaira said. He said if the PPP workers had also opted for holding demos, it could lead the country towards anarchy. “It has been decided that legal consultation would be made with the legal experts while political consultation would be made with the coalition parties of the government to adopt any future strategy,” Kaira added.
To a query, Kaira said following the court verdict, technically, Gilani was not the prime minister and when there was no prime minister, there was no cabinet. Kaira added that though the members of the PPP CEC had reservations over the court order, the body empowered the party’s co-chairman to devise a strategy keeping in view the opinion of legal experts as well as the allied parties. “We have made sacrifices for the democratic process in the past and we will sacrifice in the future as well,” he asserted. Asked what would be the fate of the decisions adopted by the federal cabinet after April 26, including the passage of the Budget 2012, Kaira said the court may issue direction about the matter in its detailed judgment. To a question whether the PPP leadership was considering issuing a presidential ordinance to set aside the court judgment or if the president could pardon Gilani, Badr said no such proposal was discussed during the CEC meeting.
The PPP leaders said a meeting of the parliamentary party of the PPP had also been convened today (Wednesday) to discuss the situation.
Kaira said Zardari had cancelled his visit to the Russian Federation in view of the evolving situation.