Abrar Saeed

ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani hinted at holding of pre-schedule general elections anytime after the presentation of annual budget and said that they were ready to sit with opposition address their concerns regarding the election commission and settle modalities for holding free and fair elections.

Talking to media persons at Prime Minister’s House Sunday evening after his return from Davos, Premier Gilani said they were not averse to dialogue with the opposition and wanted to take all the political stakeholders on board while taking major decisions.

To a question he said that government would talk with opposition for building consensus on the 20th Constitutional Amendment Bill as well as other matters of contentious nature.

To a question, he said that the annual budget 2012-13 would be presented in May while the general elections could be held anytime after the general elections and added that PPP would contest in alliance with their coalition partners. “We want free, fair and transparent elections,” he said, adding that the smooth transition of government would set a good tradition. “In politics, no walls are built but bridges are made,” he said while stressing the need for dialogue between the government and the opposition on all issues. He further said that the timing of the next general elections would be worked out with the opposition parties and allies.

To a question, he said Punjab was hurdle in the formation of new Drug Regulatory Authority as rest of the three provinces had given their consent to the federal government in black and white but Punjab was not agreeing to the point.

He said he was deeply saddened over loss of lives in Punjab and did not want to criticise the provincial government, as he was the chief executive and face of the Pakistan government abroad. About redefining country’s foreign policy with specific reference to the United States and restoration of the Nato supplies, Gilani said he has not seen yet the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and made it loud and clear that government would follow whatever decision the parliament would take and added that gone were the days when a dictator would submit to others demands on a single telephone call. He disclosed that he had not spent five but 10 years in incarceration during the dictatorial rule in the country.

Prime Minister denied the government had taken the decision of suspension of the Nato supplies on the pressure from some religious party and said that the decision was purely taken by him and now the parliament, which reflects the will of the people, would decide whether to restore the supplies or not.

He said the government had written a new history by adopting an independent course in foreign policy. “We protected national interests in letter and spirit,” he said, adding that now people and the parliament would decide about the relations with the United States. Other political leaders are way behind the government, as they wanted to stop Nato supply lines through musical concerts, he noted. But his government took concrete actions and stopped the Nato supplies; it got vacated the Shamsi Airbase and refused to participate in the Bonn conference, he added.

The PM said that President Asif Ali Zardari would address the parliament according to schedule. “He will become the first president to address the joint sitting of parliament for a fifth time,” he added.

Terming the statement of petroleum minister regarding the increase in the petroleum products prices as out of place, Gilani said that Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority was the right forum to talk about such things. “The petroleum minister should not have given a statement on increase in prices of oil as it is the domain of Ogra,” he said.

He directed the Cabinet Division secretary for ensuring transparent appointment of Ogra chairman.

To a question about Mian Khurram Rasool he said that Intelligence Bureau had brought the matter of Khurram Rasool’s alleged corruption before him and he had immediately directed interior ministry to hold inquiry on the matter and subsequently he was removed from service and a case was lodged against him by his Principal Secretary.

To another question he said that by-elections would be held as per schedule and the election commission had presented their point of view before the Supreme Court of Pakistan in this connection.

Agencies add: Prime Minister Gilani said that there was no talk about giving another extension to ISI Director General Ahmad Shuja Pasha in order to normalise relations with the Army.

Ruling out any further change in by-polls schedule, Prime Minister Gilani maintained that the by-elections will be held on time.