Gilani justifies by-election postponment

GILGIT: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has indirectly justified Punjab government’s plea for the postponement of by-elections by saying that he had communicated information through the interior ministry about threats to his own life and lives of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Speaking at a news conference here on Wednesday before leaving for Islamabad, the prime minister, however, refused to comment on merits of the Punjab government’s petition seeking postponement of the polls on two National Assembly seats in Lahore and Rawalpindi.

Acting Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira also attended the press conference.

The prime minister did not answer when asked if elections could be held in volatile Iraq and Afghanistan why not in Pakistan. However, he said: ‘If the opposition has any point to prove it may do so in the court.’

He did not rule out the involvement of foreign elements in the recent incidents of violence in Gilgit-Baltistan and said he had asked the administration to set up a committee of ulema for peace in the region.

The prime minister said he and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh had agreed at a meeting in Egypt that dialogue was the only way forward for resolving all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, and expressed the hope that he might have another chance to meet him on the sidelines of the coming Commonwealth summit.

He said Pakistan had been making serious efforts to resume the composite dialogue after the Mumbai attacks, but these could not meet success so far.

In reply to question about conditions attached to the Kerry-Lugar bill and PML-N’s demand for debate on the issue in parliament, he said there was no harm in doing so, but till the final approval of the bill it could not be debated in parliament.

The prime minister said the autonomy package announced for Gilgit-Baltistan was a legal document which was signed by the president and demands for giving it constitutional coverage were not correct.

He reiterated that drone attacks inside Pakistani territory were ‘counter-productive’ which was also acknowledged by the world community.

‘We have asked the United States to provide us with drone technology and we will take action against militants.’

Answering a question about the delay in planned reshuffle in cabinet, the prime minister said: ‘It will be done within the party which has to offer replacements.’

About the delay in implementation of the Balochistan package proposed by the special parliamentary committee, Mr Gilani said the government wanted to bring the three-pronged package to a joint session of parliament for a wider consensus before the implementation.

About increasing one seat for Hunza district in the Gilgit-Baltistan assembly, he said it would be decided by the new assembly after election.

He said he had asked the administration to fill 5,000 vacant posts of police in Gilgit-Baltistan. The prime minister announced setting up of a dispensary in Chellem area and Rs10 million for construction of a road in the area.

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