MULTAN - Buoyed by his party’s excellent performance in the Senate elections, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday dismissed speculation about early general elections and installation of a caretaker regime.

“Now there will be no caretaker or chair-taker. The prime minister will not go up, inside or outside; he will stay right here,” a confidant prime minister told reporters after inaugurating Multan Campus of Air University here at State Bank Auditorium, a day after the ruling PPP not only emerged as the single largest party in the upper house of the parliament but the alliance it leads also attained a permanent tow-thirds majority in the house.

Earlier, it was being expected that the beleaguered government facing challenges from the judiciary and the military would succumb to the opposition calls for an early election. PM Gilani himself said a number of times that government could call elections any time after presentation of budget.

However, the PPP gained breathing space by winning 19 of the 54 Senate seats in Friday’s vote. With the allied parties ANP, MQM, PML-Q also performing handsomely, the total seats of the ruling alliance climbed up to 70, the magic number in a 104-member house, giving the alliance a permanent upper hand in senate. “All the rumours have proved baseless” Gilani said about the several predictions made in the past about the fall of his government.

“The government held senate elections on time and will present its fifth budget in May,” he said confidently, noting that his would be the first-ever civilian government in country’s history to present its fifth budget. The decision about next elections would be made in consultation with the PPP allies, he added.

To a question about US pressure to get Pakistan to abandon Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, Gilani said Pakistan is a sovereign country and it will take all decisions in its own interest. “We have bilateral relations with Iran and we will work in the interests of our country. We’ll not accept any foreign pressure on this issue of national interest.”

Gilani noted the unreliability of the relationship with the US, saying “there have been ups and downs in our relations with America… Sometimes they (relations) are good and sometimes they are bad”.

About the internal situation of the country, he said all the institutions were being strengthened and there would be no problems if they worked within their constitutional ambit. “We will not impose any restrictions on the media... We want the parliament and the judiciary to be strong. We want the media to be strong… We want all the institutions to work while remaining within their constitutional limits. Then there will be no problems in the country.“

Declaring tolerance a key to success, Gilani claimed that his government was far more tolerant than any other previous regime. “That’s why the country doesn’t have even a single political prisoner today. We’ve proved that the country can be run without political vendetta,” he added.

Pledging to give relief to the people in the next budget, he claimed that PPP’s ‘pro-public government’ was fulfilling all promises it made with the masses one after the other.

About the Seraiki province, Gilani said that it was not ‘just his wish’ rather a demand form all the people of this region. He added that irrational demands for unfeasible other new provinces were being tossed from certain quarters just to scuttle the realisation of Seraiki province.

“Now if someone raises the voice for Bahawalpur, Thal or Hazara provinces, he is attempting to divert attention from the real issue,” he said, asserting that conspiracies against Seraiki province would fail and the province will be created soon. “Bahawalpur will be a part of proposed Seraiki province. We’ll resolve this issue with the consultation of our political allies after budget,” he declared.

Answering a query about the recent increase in petroleum prices, he presented the justification that POL prices were subject to the prices in international market. “If the rates go up in international market, we’re compelled to increase the price. We know we’re public representatives but we have to keep our resources forth.”

He told the journalists that he would direct Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) to start cotton procurement. “It will benefit the cotton grower instead of middleman,” he added.