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Pakistan PM Gilani wins key backing in Parliament

Pakistan's Parliament passed a key resolution Monday that backed Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani as he faces pressure from the Army and the Supreme Court.

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Zardari argued, however, that as head of state he enjoys immunity from prosecution, and Gilani did not pursue it. That may change as court pressure on Gilani mounts. 

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According to Supreme Court advocate Feisal Naqvi, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) may end up sending a letter to Swiss authorities to help reopen the old cases against President Zardari before the next date of hearing on Thursday, in order to avoid Gilani’s dismissal. 

Mr. Abbas, on the other hand, says the judiciary is more likely to get the prime minister’s legal team to respond to the contempt charges rather than dismissing the prime minister.

The second case relates to a secret memorandum sent by unknown persons to the United States, seeking American help in curtailing Pakistan’s Army. Zardari denies any role in the scandal, which cost former Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani his job. Mansoor Ijaz, a US businessmen who says he co-authored the memo and brought it to light, is due to give evidence to the court on Jan. 25. 

A further interesting aspect to Monday’s vote was a failure by Pakistan’s main opposition party, the PML-N, to side with the government despite a recent record of standing up to the Army. The resolution still passed with a majority of parliament including some members of other opposition parties.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali, leader of the opposition in parliament, attempted to table amendments to the resolution requiring the government to endorse all orders of the Supreme Court and refrain from making hostile statements toward the Army in public. When those amendments failed, he led a walk-out, saying: “There is no threat to democracy. This incompetent government is trying to support itself through this hollow resolution.”

According to senior Pakistani journalist Amir Mateen, the statements represent a mellowing of the party’s anti-Army stance which it has held since elections in 2008 and may be the result of an attempt to make political hay in what politicians and pundits alike expect to be an election year.

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