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breaking news: PPP, allies decide not to back off

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani chairing a meeting of coalition partners at the Presidency in Islamabad on Thursday.

ISLAMABAD: Partners in the ruling coalition decided on Thursday to defend the ‘supremacy of parliament’ and not to back off on the crucial issue of the authority of the executive.

According to sources, the decision was taken at a meeting of leaders of the coalition parties at the presidency. It lasted for two and half hours and was jointly presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Coming as it does against the background of a tough stance taken by the Supreme Court over non-compliance of its orders by the government, the decision may have serious implications for the future of national politics.

“The coalition decided that the government will not change its decision regarding the removal of Establishment Secretary Sohail Ahmed and will not transfer the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Gilgit-Baltistan, Hussain Asghar, to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate the Haj scam, despite orders of the Supreme Court,” a senior politician who attended the meeting told this reporter. He didn’t want his name to be mentioned.

The coalition partners decided that Prime Minister Gilani would address the National Assembly on Monday and the president has summoned a session of the house.

“The speech of the prime minister will be polite but revealing and will give a message to the judiciary and other organs of the state that all institutions should work under their ambit and the legal and constitutional framework,” the sources said.

The decisions were taken after the Supreme Court had given 24 hours to the prime minister to submit his reply on the issue of relegating the secretary to the post of ‘officer on special duty’.

The prime minister will submit a reply that may not please the apex court,” the senior politician said.

The coalition partners said they were ready to pay any price, even sacrifice their government, but would not compromise on the supremacy of parliament and the Constitution.

A PPP leader said work on drafting the prime minister’s speech in the NA was taken up soon after the meeting ended.

The meeting decided that if the government demonstrated any flexibility at this stage, it would be responsible for any damage to democracy, democratic power and institutions.

The coalition partners were of the view that the judiciary should not interfere in the matters of the executive because the government had not created any hurdle in the appointment of 110 judges on the desire of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

The president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the meeting was attended by Senator Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, Senator Babar Awan, Senator Afrasiab Khattak, Senator Mohammad Zahid Khan, Senator Kalsoom Perveen, MNA Munir Khan Orakzai and MNA Noorul Haq Qadri.

The president briefed the coalition partners on his recent visits to Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

“The meeting also took stock of the current political and economic situation in the country,” the spokesman said.

The leaders expressed their views candidly on various critical issues and discussed what is being perceived as a new government-judiciary confrontation.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court gave 24 hours to the prime minister to restore the establishment secretary (Sohail Ahmed) who had on Tuesday issued a notification transferring Gilgit-Baltistan IG Hussain Asghar to the FIA to enable him to resume investigation of the Haj scam in which people close to the prime minister and other important people in the government are alleged to be involved.

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