LAHORE – Prime Minster Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that the government respects the institutions and there should be no confusion on this score.

Gilani said he wants electioneering to gear up in the country, as change should only come through elections. It is our credit that 1973 Constitution has been restored to its original form and now we will jealously protect the constitution, he said while addressing a big gathering of lawyers at the annual dinner function of the Lahore Bar Association here Saturday.

Gilani spoke amid unabated deafening slogans in favour Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary from every corner of Alhamra hall. The reaction of the sloganeering was clearly telling on the face of the prime minister, the Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, Evacuee Trust Board Chairman Asif Hasmi and the bar office bearers. The bar president Shahzad Hassan Sheikh had to repeatedly turn to the ‘Chief tery janisar, beshmaar, beshmaar’ and ‘go-Zardari-go’ chanting lawyers to calm them down but they would not stop till the end of PM’s address, which appeared to be hurriedly concluded.

The CJP was not invited to the dinner but in fact, he stole the show through his supporters and lovers in the lawyers’ community. It was quite visible that charisma of an invisible person (CJP) has stolen the show overshadowing all others.

The prime minister in his speech however very discreetly neutralised the situation describing the charged up atmosphere in favour of the chief justice and anti-Zardari slogans as a fruit of democracy whose credit he said, goes to the PPP leadership. Continuing with his speech, the prime minister made a mention of the upcoming election of the Lahore Bar and said, he also favoured elections and its allied activity of processions, and sloganeering.

Lauding struggle of the lawyers, the prime minister said since movement for the creation of Pakistan lawyers played spearhead role in the caravan of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali and later on stood against the dictatorial rulers when they grabbed the power from the civilians. He thanked the bar president for inviting him to the function and said, “We are from among the masses, who launched movement for the independent judiciary” and pointing to the slogan-chanting lawyers, he said, “We are not afraid of such atmosphere”.

Gilani said today the lawyers, judiciary, media and civil society are independent and vibrant only for the reason that constitution framed by Z A Bhutto is operational in its original form and democracy is in place. Feeling proud of PPP for giving democracy to the country, the prime minister said the country would not have remained intact had there been no constitution and as such they would jealously guard the same. Today institutions are strong because of the constitution. In the same breath the PM said, the government respects the institutions and no-one should have confusion regarding this fact.

He said Bhutto gave nuclear technology to the country, Benazir Bhutto Shaheed missile technology and “we will record the biggest achievement in the history Pakistan by giving energy to the country”. He said PPP is a party of the federation having roots everywhere in the country and AJK and as such it can salvage the country in crises.

The PM on the occasion also announced NAB-possessed land for the Lawyers Housing Scheme, 10 per cent free education quota in educational institutions under the Evacuee Trust Board, funds to complete Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Lawyers Hospital and Rs2.5million aid for the cancer treatment of advocate Ijaz Ahmad.

Earlier Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khan Khosa praised the PM for lifting restrictions on the movement of lawyers immediately after being named for the office. He said the PM restored the constitution and got the 18th amendment incorporated therein. He said today the country is safe and government is in strong hands and no dictator can dare derail it. The bar president also spoke on the occasion.