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Gilani retreats; says has nothing against military

January 27, 2012 17:32 IST

In signs of a thaw in the tense standoff between Pakistan's beleaguered government and the powerful army, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that democracy is not under threat and he has nothing against the military.

Gilani, who had sent tongues wagging about a possible military coup when he claimed recently that "conspiracies" are being hatched to "pack up" his government, however did a U-turn on Thursday, and said all state institutions "want democracy in the country".

"I am satisfied that at this moment, the whole of Pakistan and its civil society, intelligentsia, media, parliamentarians and politicians want democracy in the country.

"Therefore nobody is in favour of (anything) other than democracy," he said speaking to state-run APP news agency in Davos, where he is participating in the World Economic Forum.

"There is a Constitution in Pakistan and everyone is working within the limits of that Constitution... Democracy is strong and democracy will remain in Pakistan. No one has a desire to go against the constitution," he said.

Referring to the sacking of Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi over the memo scandal, he said, "There was a statement by me which created the perception  that there was a confrontation between us and the military.

"When we went into the details of that, the person who was responsible, he was removed. Since he was removed, I have nothing against them."

Meanwhile, in an interview with the BBC, Gilani said there was no threat to democracy in Pakistan and rejected reports of a possible military coup against the democratic government.

The premier said his government is not under threat from the military. Replying to a question about speculations that Pakistan is a failed state and democracy is under threat, Gilani said, "Democracy is not under threat".

The memo scandal is currently being probed by a Supreme Court-appointed commission and a parliamentary committee but American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, who made the memo public, has refused to come to Pakistan to testify due to security concerns.

Asked about Ijaz's refusal to come to Pakistan, Gilani said: "He was not coming on my say-so. He was coming on the court's order. If he does not want to come (to Pakistan), I can't comment.

"The matter is already sub-judice before the judicial commission". Gilani also said the gone are the days when Presidents could use constitutional provisions to dismiss elected governments.

"Elections are the prerogative of the government and I am the government. The days when Presidents used to dismiss assemblies under article 58-2b (of the Constitution) and call for elections are over," he said.

Gilani dismissed opposition politician Imran Khan's assertion that it would be correct to remove the Pakistan People's Party-led government due to its alleged corruption and poor governance.

"He (Imran Khan) may say so but he did not even participate in the (last) election. And we used to tell him he should. Then he participated in bye-polls and kept losing.

"It's just a party line. Why should we be worried about what Imran Khan is saying," he said.

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