Pak govt allies in solidarity with Gilani

Islamabad: Leaders of Pakistan`s ruling coalition today expressed "complete solidarity" with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, hours after he was indicted for contempt by the Supreme Court for refusing to reopen graft cases against the President. The partners of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party expressed "complete solidarity with the government" of Gilani at a meeting chaired by the premier.

The PPP and its allies discussed the current political situation and agreed to work together for "continuation of the political and democratic process in the country", said a statement from the premier`s office. "They further resolved to continue to work for the sustenance and strengthening of the democratic dispensation in the country," the statement said.

The meeting was attended by PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Awami National Party head Asfandyar Wali Khan, Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Munir Khan Orakzai, the leader of a group of MPs from the tribal areas, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Religious Affairs Khursheed Shah.

The apex court`s move added to the political uncertainty in Pakistan amidst tensions between the civilian government and the military leadership. Gilani is the first Pakistani premier to be charged by a court while in office and if he is convicted, he could be imprisoned for six months and possibly removed from his post. Legal experts have said Gilani could still avoid prison as the President has the power to pardon him.

The apex court has been pressuring the government to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. Gilani and his lawyers have argued that the cases against Zardari cannot be reopened as the President enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad. In a separate meeting with a group of lawyers from his hometown of Multan, Gilani said his government was following the policy of reconciliation laid down by the PPP`s slain chairperson, Benazir Bhutto.

This policy was very successful for forging consensus on key political decisions, he said. The delegation from the Multan Bar Association appreciated Gilani`s appearance in the Supreme Court, which it said was "tantamount to holding judiciary in high esteem" and reflected the premier`s "commitment to rule of law and imperatives of due process".

Gilani appreciated the lawyers` community`s struggle for rule of law and for restoration of the constitution and democracy. The restoration of the rights of people and democracy was greatly due to their struggle along with the PPP, he said.