ISLAMABAD - The PPP has again vowed defiance on the issue of writing to Swiss authorities  as ordered by the Supreme Court – saying that President Asif Zardari enjoys constitutional immunity. However, it has been decided that PPP-led government will hold early Senate and general elections.

At a PPP Core Committee meeting, which was chaired by President Zardari and attended by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, it was again decided not to write to Swiss authorities regarding reopening of cases against the PPP co-chairman as the participant maintained that Zardari being the president has immunity under the constitution. It was also decided that President Zardari would not appear before the commission probing into memo scandal, again claiming his immunity to appearing before any court or commission.

According to the informed sources, at the core committee’s meeting at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States Ms Sherry Rehman advised the ruling alliance not to comply with Supreme Court directive to write letter to Swiss authorities by Jan 10 as she said the president enjoys immunity.

PPP leader Khursheed Shah, who attended the gathering revealed that the government has decided to hold early elections. He was quoted by a private TV channel as saying that Senate elections will be held in February and general elections may be held anytime after the budget. Sources said the meeting decided that Senate elections would be held towards the end of February rather than in March as scheduled while the general elections could be held after June this year. The meeting also decided to hold by-elections to all the vacant seats in the assemblies and complete all legal formalities for this purpose at the earliest.

Sources said the PPP co-chairman directed the ruling alliance to prepare for next general elections with clear objective to secure second term. In his separate meetings with party leaders, ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, Zardari directed the ruling alliance to capitalise on forthcoming bye-elections on seats, which fell vacant following resignation of several lawmakers to join Imarn Khan’s PTI. In his remarks Zardari said that it was a great opportunity to capitalise on the by-elections and Senate polls, and hoped the ruling alliance would knock out in the political contest.

President Zardari also called upon the ruling alliance to remain steadfast in defeating conspiracies being hatched by the anti-democratic forces to weaken the incumbent democratic dispensation. He discussed at length with party’s core committee and leaders of the ruling alliance the overall political situation, law and order situation and the economic measures being taken by the government to provide relief to masses.

The core committee in its meeting observed that it wanted to contact various alienated leaders and workers of the party to clear out their reservations. The meeting decided to mobilise people and to hold rallies and public meetings at the divisional levels throughout the country which would be addressed by the senior leadership of the party, including the prime minister.

The meeting also decided to begin consultative process with coalition partners in the parliament on the issue of formation of new provinces. Appropriate legislative measures will soon be adopted in the parliament for the carving out of Seraiki province in the light of consultations with the political partners.

Briefing about the meeting Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar said that political and economic situation was discussed during the meeting. He said that the meeting rejected the proposal mooted by some political circles for the setting up of military courts and vowed to resist any such move.

The meeting hailed the cabinet decision to support a private member bill, which seeks to make it mandatory for all the public servants to declare their assets details, and push through the proposed legislation with vigour. The meeting also welcomed the prime minister’s announcement to lift ban on government jobs and called upon the government to urgently issue notification to this effect.

The prime minister briefed the meeting on gas, electricity, sugar and fertiliser situation in the country. The prime minister said that the government was giving priority to domestic consumers and there will be no interruption to the domestic consumers. Gilani said gas supplies to industry, cement, fertiliser and thermal power sectors would remain suspended during the current month.

Farhatullah Babar said that a committee led by Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain has been tasked to hold talks with stakeholders in Sindh to share some of the gas produced in Sindh with Punjab and submit its report. He said that the meeting decided to hold dialogue with all political parties and leaders for strengthening democracy in the country and to take the country out of myriad of problems.

Those who attended the meeting included Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Ch Ahmed Mukhtar, Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, Manzoor Wattoo, Syed Khursheed Shah, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Naveed Qamar, Ms Sherry Rehman, Rehman Malik, Faisal Raza Abidi, Sardar Ali Khan, Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Rana Farooq Saeed, Ms Rukhsana Bangash, Ms Fouzia Habib and Farhatullah Babar.