Prime Minister Gilani sounded very confident about staying in office till the end of his government’s five-year term. “There will be no caretaker or chair-taker. The Prime Minister will not go up, inside or outside; he will stay right here…All the rumours (about the fall of his government) have proved baseless…The Prime Minister will not be jailed,” he told reporters after he had inaugurated Multan Camp of Air University on Saturday. It is true that speculations about the PPP-led government’s fall have been rife since recent past at least, due to its persistent defiance of the judiciary, the existence of an atmosphere of mistrust between it and the army and the people’s growing problems. Precisely for this reason, the PM had said on more than one occasion in public that the next general elections could be held any time after the presentation of the budget. Now, however, he remarked that the decision about the timing of the next general elections would be made in consultation with PPP allies.

This resurgence of confidence in Mr Gilani has come after the PPP was able to make historic gains in the Senate elections held on March 2, in which it notched up, along with its coalition partners, as many as 70 seats, giving them a two-thirds majority. Nevertheless, it is notable that he should be making such emphatic statements while a case of contempt of court is lying pending against him in the Supreme Court. His future in office may be at stake in case he is found guilty of contempt. One would advise caution about words that may not be of help to him, in fact they might go against him, while a case against him is sub-judice.

Mr Gilani touched on several other issues, as he spoke to the journalists at Multan. To the question whether Pakistan would go ahead with the Iranian gas pipeline about which there existed sharp differences between Washington and Islamabad, he replied that the government would not accept any foreign pressure “on this issue of national interest”. His reply stands to reason because the gasline is of absolute importance to Pakistan to cope with its energy needs and resuscitate its collapsing economy. While saying that the government wanted Parliament, the judiciary and the media (in fact, all institutions) to be strong, he observed, “we want all the institutions to work while remaining within their constitutional limits. Then there will be no problems in the country.” He promised relief to the people in the next budget, at the same time insisting that the petroleum products’ price hike (the root cause of across-the-board inflation) was because of increase in prices at the international market. One would have wished that the government had by now realised that creating more governing units in the country would open a Pandora’s box and dropped the idea of carving out a Seraiki province out of Punjab. But, it is a pity that he pledged to make one, but then, strangely, dismissed the idea of Bahawalpur, Thal and Hazara provinces. Already under great financial constraints and inter-provincial bickering, the country cannot bear its further splitting. That would do great us harm and must be eschewed.