* PM regrets people making comments about bill without even reading it
* PPP meeting agrees to build consensus on bill
MUZAFFARABAD: A meeting of the country’s top leadership is being convened soon to discuss the Kerry-Lugar bill and its implications, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Friday.
“President Asif Ali Zardari, myself, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will hold a meeting immediately,” the prime minister said.
Gilani said the foreign minister had been asked to return from the US to respond to the queries being raised in the National Assembly.
To questions about various controversial clauses in the bill, he said parliament was the right forum to discuss important national issues.
Gilani however regretted that people were commenting on the bill without even having read it.
Meanwhile, President Zardari chaired a meeting of senior leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to discuss the political situation following the differences over the Kerry-Lugar bill.
Sources said the party leaders rallied behind the president to support the bill.
Federal ministers Qureshi, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Babar Awan, Naveed Qamar, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mehreen Anwar Raja, President’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar and parliamentarian Rukhshana Bangash were also present.
The foreign minister briefed the participants on the bill, which for the first time has de-linked the civilian assistance to Pakistan from the security aid.
He also briefed the meeting about his meetings with US leaders and exchange of views on issues related to Pakistan’s security.
Consensus: The sources said the meeting also decided to address the concerns of the security establishment and said the government would create consensus on the issue as the country could not afford internal dissension. They also said Zardari was eager to end the controversy on the bill as soon as possible, as any delay would tarnish the image of the government. They said the president had put off all other engagements to focus on the issue. app/sajjad malik
Troika meets today to resolve all issues
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Parliament likely to reject Kerry-Lugar Bill
By Hamid Mir
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has agreed to relent on his hitherto uncompromising stance on the Kerry-Lugar Bill in its existing shape. The president and the prime minister have decided to defuse the current crises by both assuring Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Saturday that all the controversial clauses of the Kerry-Lugar Bill will be debated in both houses of parliament and subsequently these clauses could be rejected by parliament.
The president and the prime minister will meet jointly with the army chief today (Saturday) in a bid to address all concerns of the Army high command regarding the Kerry-Lugar Bill. Both the prime minister and the president discussed the current political crises in different meetings on Friday. A group of federal ministers first met the prime minister in the morning in his parliament chambers and then the president in the late afternoon. This group of ministers was on a crisis-defusing mission. They included Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Babar Awan and Labour Minister Khurshid Shah. Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar was also part of the meeting in the late afternoon.
A recent statement of Farhatullah Babar also came under discussion in which he reportedly said that opponents of the Kerry-Lugar Bill were opponents of President Zardari. Farhatullah Babar claimed that his statement was distorted. It was decided that in future he will speak only after first consulting with Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik was not invited to this meeting but he too remained active till late last night. He contacted top army brass Thursday and assured that the president had no plans to remove General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani from the command of Pakistan Army.
He categorically told one general that; “Neither I nor the president is hatching any conspiracy against General Kayani and if someone can prove anything against me I will resign.” According to reliable sources, the president himself will assure General Kayani today that nobody is going to remove him from his current job.
It is also learnt that at least two federal ministers recommended to President Zardari that he must identify and fire all those who are responsible for creating misunderstanding between the Army high command and the civilian leadership. Some action on their recommendations is expected soon.
Everybody present in the meeting agreed that the country cannot afford confrontation between different institutions and there is an urgent need to defuse the crises so that no internal or external enemy could take advantage of this situation. The president said that the country needed unity against extremist forces and any political crises will only help all those who have become a threat for the state in the tribal areas. It was also decided that the prime minister will talk to the heads of all major political parties for making a joint strategy on Kerry-Lugar Bill.
One minister informed the prime minister in the morning meeting that Kerry-Lugar Bill is not the only source of irritation between the army high command and the government. The president was also informed about the activities of some US citizens in Islamabad and Peshawar that created a lot of concern in army circles.
Reliable sources claimed that rejection of the controversial clauses of Kerry-Lugar Bill by the parliament will not be enough. The army high command and a large number of federal ministers want a check on the mysterious activities of some US nationals in Pakistan. The Interior Ministry had recently informed prime minister that there were 411 US nationals present in Pakistan these days out of which 286 enjoyed the status of diplomats.
US embassy in Islamabad has hired about 307 houses in the capital. Security agencies have completed a survey of these houses and informed the government in clear words that most of these houses will not be used just for residences but also for spying activities. The president and the prime minister will discuss all these issues with COAS today and will try to form a joint strategy to secure and stabilise the country.