ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in the Senate on Friday that parliament had given powers to institutions, including immunity to the president, through the Constitution and only it could withdraw these.
“We fully respect courts and will implement their verdicts, but there is a need that all institutions work within their constitutional limits,” he said, adding that the president was supreme commander of the armed forces and since immunity to him had been given by parliament under Article 248 of the Constitution, only it could revoke the immunity.
“Parliament is a sovereign body and the president is also part of it and, therefore, he should also be given due respect under the Constitution like other institutions.”
Mr Gilani said the president had completed almost half of his tenure and advised his opponents to wait out the remaining half for reopening of cases as after leaving the President’s House, Mr Zardari would no longer enjoy any immunity.
In an indirect reference to the Supreme Court orders, he said he had sought a list of NRO beneficiaries a week ago and asked the attorney general and the law ministry to scrutinise, authenticate and certify the list so that no name was left and the status of each case clearly reflected.
He partially endorsed the stand taken by the PML-N when he said: “I would like to ask all NRO beneficiaries holding government positions and assignments to voluntarily resign.”
The prime minister said: “We should respect all institutions. Giving respect to institutions should not mean the judiciary alone. The same can be said about parliament and other institutions.”
He reminded that the Constitution had been framed by parliament and none of its 442 members had raised fingers against the issue of immunity when the 18th Amendment had been adopted.
He told the thinly-attended upper house: “The nation is watching you. So let us ensure that parliament and parliamentarians are respected.”
Mr Gilani said it was unfortunate that people had tolerated dictatorship for ten years, but they were not ready to tolerate democracy for five years. “Pakistan was created by politicians and now they have forged unity among people to fight terrorism and also restored the Constitution to its original form.”
He said he had abided by the court decision reverting promotion of federal secretaries, although he had been advised to file a review petition. “When the court advised me to send Kamran Lashari to jail, I said there should be a committee to look into the matter so that a Grade-22 officer is not condemned unheard. Then the court decision came and I withdrew Mr Lashari from the post of Sindh chief secretary.”
He said he had now constituted an inquiry committee to look into the matter.
Mr Gilani assured the house that the government would use all channels for repatriation of Dr Aafia Siddiqui. “She is daughter of the nation and we will raise this issue at diplomatic and political levels.”
Earlier, lawmakers from both the opposition and treasury benches condemned the 86-year sentence awarded to Dr Aafia by a US court and urged the government to make all efforts to repatriate her.
They said the decision had exposed ‘real face’ of the United States and called upon the government to review its foreign policy.
Those who condemned the sentence included Professor Khurshid Ahmad, Raja Zafarul Haque, Wasim Sajjad, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Kulsoom Parveen and Dr Aafia Zia.