Putting up a brave front after annulment of amnesty in graft cases to him by Supreme Court, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has vowed to "fight back" as the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party reposed "full confidence" in his leadership. The beleaguered president made the pledge "to fight back" while chairing a meeting of PPP's central executive committee on Satuday to review the fallout of the apex court's decision to scrap National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a controversial law promulgated by ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007 which gave amnesty to Zardari and over 8,000 other people in graft cases.
The PPP "reposed full confidence" in Zardari's leadership and "vowed to rally around him at a time when he is the target of criticism and political attacks from all around and to put up a fierce fight in his defence", presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said. The party also decided that federal ministers facing graft charges following the scrapping of the NRO by the apex court on Wednesday would defend themselves in court instead ofresigning. Zardari said the PPP "will not be blackmailed into asking its ministers to resign merely on the basis ofaccusations against them". None of the accusations had been proved and there is no reason for anyone to resign "until proved guilty of wrong- doing", he said.
The PPP decided on its strategy to tackle the political crisis confronting the government during the marathon meeting of its top leadership, which began on Saturday afternoon and continued till late in the night. Briefing the media on the meeting, senior party leader Jahangir Badr, a close aide of Zardari, said: "The PPP is united on co-chairman Zardari's leadership and reposes complete confidence in him. "We respect the (apex) court's verdict but the cases (that are being reopened) were filed as part of political revenge during Musharraf's regime because the PPP did not accept him. We faced these cases in the past and will face them again," Badr said.
Responding to questions on demands from the opposition for Zardari to resign and the possible removal of the PPP-led
federal government, Badr said: "The geo-political situation in Pakistan makes it very clear that anything other than
democracy will lead to anarchy and chaos." Zardari said the PPP would "use democracy and constitutionalism as its weapons to fight it adversaries and foil all conspiracies" against the party.
Despite the hurdles put in its way, the PPP will continue "to strengthen democracy... and will not be deterred by conspiracies against it", he said. He said he "foresaw many more conspiracies and onslaughts against the PPP" and added that "none of the conspiracies will be allowed to succeed".
Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and senior party leaders like Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza
Rabbani and Safdar Abbasi attended the meeting. Ahsan, one of Pakistan's leading lawyers, briefed the PPP leaders on the fallout of the apex court's verdict. Zardari and the PPP government are facing their worst political crisis since coming to power last year due to the Supreme Court's annulment of NRO. The president and several of his close allies, including Defence Minister Mukhtar and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, benefitted from the NRO.
The apex court's ruling came at a time when Zardari's popularity ratings have hit rock bottom. An anti-corruption court in Karachi has also summoned Malik to appear before it next month while the Defence Minister was barred from on an official visit to China due to the reopening of a corruption probe against him.
Zardari's aides say the Constitution grants him immunity from prosecution by virtue of holding the post of President. On Friday, Gilani mounted a spirited defence of Zardari in the wake of the apex court's decision to strike down NRO, saying the President had already spent 12 years in jail on corruption charges that were never proved.
"These are not new cases. He (Zardari) remained in jail for 12 years and Rs 4 billion to Rs 5 billion were spent in pursuing cases against him (though the charges were never proved)," Gilani had said, pointing out that even if Zardari had committed an offence, he had already completed the requisite jail term for such a crime.
Gilani has also suspended Interior Secretary Qamar-uz- Zaman Chaudhry and three other officials of Federal Investigation Agency after taking a "very serious notice" of authorities barring the Defence Minister from travelling to China on Thursday.