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Govt, opposition at one in warning plotters

gilani na PakistanISLAMABAD: The government and the opposition joined voices in the National Assembly on Wednesday to assert supremacy of parliament over other organs of the state as guaranteed by the Constitution with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani warning against any encroachment upon “our space”.

Both sides also condemned perceived finger-pointing at politicians after Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, amid cheers from both sides, condemned what he regarded as a misleading report issued last week by a US-aided non-governmental organisation estimating a three-fold increase in the average worth of the declared assets of the National Assembly members over a period of six years to 2008-09.

Assuring the house that his 2-1/2-year-old PPP-led government respected “all institutions” of the state, particularly naming the judiciary, the prime minister, speaking for parliament, declared: “We will neither encroach upon the space of any other (institution) nor allow an encroachment upon our space.”

And he made it clear that the government would be guided only by the Constitution in according respect to judicial judgments.

“We will respect the decisions of the judiciary but within the limits of the 1973 Constitution,” he said in his oft-cheered speech in Urdu.

In what seemed to be his toughest denunciation of some adverse speculation by a section of the media about the future of the democratic system, the prime minister said his government was not afraid of any conspiracy and added: “We will protect this house, we will protect the members.”

He rejected suggestions in some media reports of resorting to a government of technocrats as happened in Bangladesh before last elections there and noted that the model failed even in Bangladesh. “Whatever will come it will come from this house…, from this parliament and with your votes,” he said.

Mr Gilani agreed with opposition leader’s call for providing for an across-the-board accountability of not only office-holding politicians but also bureaucrats, judges and generals in a stalled accountability bill seeking to replace the existing Musharraf-era National Accountability Bureau and said: “We will pass it unanimously.”

But he did not say when the government planned to have a house vote on the draft that has been pending before a standing committee for more than a year after its introduction mainly because of disagreement on opposition amendments.

Chaudhry Nisar in his speech earlier described the Sept 14 report of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) as part of an “unacceptable politician-bashing” and said his PML-N party would bring an adjournment motion in the house for debate on it.

He said: “There is a conspiracy behind it of which we will not become a part; rather we will oppose it.”

Information and Broadcasting Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira later told the house the government had also taken up the matter with Pildat for using what he called “a faulty methodology” in assessing the assets of parliamentarians without taking into account appreciation in the value of their properties over the years.

Senior PML-Q member Riaz Hussain Pirzada, while supporting the joint stand to protect the honour of parliament, suggested a new law immediately to stop disqualification of parliamentarians for not possessing graduation degrees at the time of last elections as that condition was no longer valid.

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