Pakistani PM Gilani says he, not Zardari, is running government

Islamabad, November 30: Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Monday said he, and not President Asif Ali Zadari, is running the country.

Zadari is under growing pressure to relinquish his sweeping powers that the premier is envisaged to have in the country’s original constitution.

‘I should tell you that I am the chief executive and the chief executive is the head of the government,’ Gilani said in an interview with DPA.

‘He (Zardari) is the head of the state and I am the head of the government. It’s a childish question who is running the government,’ he said, denying that there were any differences between him and Zardari on the issue.

The country’s original constitution approves a parliamentary system, wherein a popularly elected premier is the chief executive and the president is a ceremonial head of the state.

But the former president Pervez Musharraf accumulated many of the powers originally designated to the prime minister through various constitutional amendments introduced under his nine-year regime, starting with a military coup in 1999.

Pakistan’s media in recent weeks have reported Gilani’s unease over Zardari’s constant interference in the day-to-day affairs of the government, mainly through some of the ministers that Gilani had to induct in his cabinet on the president’s instructions.

This combines with the regular demands from the political opposition, civil society, judiciary, military and even coalition government’s allies that Zardari should transfer to the prime minister what they call ‘extra-constitutional’ powers, including dismissing parliament and appointing top military leadership.

In a symbolic move, the embattled president amended a key law last week to relinquish the executive control over the country’s nuclear weapons to the prime minister.

Gilani said Sunday that the transfer of the powers was ‘a true litmus test’ of relations between him and the president, whose popularity has sunk significantly since he took over in September 2008.

Applauding the move, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of the country’s largest province Punjab and an opposition leader, asked the president to shed the rest of the powers before it is too late.

‘The nation would appreciate this act,’ Sharif told reporters Sunday.

Analysts have argued that Zardari’s reluctance to take the ceremonial role is leaving the country with a ‘lack of unity of command’ that is essential, especially at a time when the country is in the midst of a crucial fight against Taliban.

Gilani dispelled the impression that the Pakistan was ‘leaderless’.

‘It’s just a perception, not reality,’ Gilani told DPA. ‘There is difference of opinion … but that does not mean that the government is not stable.’

He said the recent ‘successful’ military offensives against the Taliban in northwestern districts of Swat and South Waziristan showed that Pakistan did not ‘lack unity of command’.