Desire for strong democracy in Pakistan: Ashraf

Islamabad: Democracy in Pakistan is passing through an era of evolution and the days of usurping people`s rights have passed, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said, expressing optimism that time will bring more stability to egalitarian forces.

Calling the people of Pakistan as "the ultimate arbiters", Ashraf said all stakeholders in Pakistan believe that the solutions to problems facing the people lie in strengthening democracy and not in depriving the people of their right of choice. Ashraf said the days of someone usurping the rights of the people have gone and those who are still daydreaming of such things have no relevance.

"Their political redundancy is inevitable," he said in an interview with state-run APP news agency. The premier`s remarks came days ahead of the hearing of two crucial cases by the Supreme Court that could decide Ashraf`s fate. Tomorrow, the court will hear challenges to a new contempt of court law aimed at preventing the disqualification of the premier.

The court has set July 25 as the deadline for Ashraf to approach Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari. Ashraf became the premier after his predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was convicted of contempt and disqualified by the apex court for refusing to reopen the cases against Zardari.

The government has argued that the President enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad. The current democratic era is passing "through an evolution and a degree of ups and downs were inevitable", he said. However, Ashraf was optimistic that the system would become "stable with the passage of time".

Ashraf said he would contact the political leadership of the country to solicit their views on matters of national importance at an "appropriate time". He said, "All political leaders are pro-Pakistan and genuinely desire that the country should march on a trajectory of peace, prosperity and stability under a strong democratic system."

He said politicians know the "art of the possible" and the recent unanimous selection of a Chief Election Commissioner was a manifestation of their acumen and commitment to democratic practices. Pakistani politicians have learned from history and they are not going to repeat the same mistakes, he said.

Political continuity is of paramount importance and it is vital to achieve political stability as it will generate economic prosperity and social integration, Ashraf said. Democracy in Pakistan is strong and stable because people are fully convinced that the solution to all ills lies in pursuing a strong democratic set-up, he said.

Democracy is at the heart of the ideological and intellectual foundations of Pakistan and the democratic dispensation is fortified by a robust civil society, free media and assertive human rights organisations, he contended. Ashraf expressed confidence in the capabilities of the political leadership of the country and said they would stand as one if they foresaw any danger to democracy.