Ques­tion but don’t flout

Southasia - - Comment -

At no time in Pak­istan’s his­tory, span­ning six decades, has the gov­ern­ment in power been in such a se­ri­ous and pro­longed con­fronta­tion with the land’s high­est court. This has re­sulted in the gov­ern­ment’s func­tion­ing in al­most all key ar­eas com­ing to a grind­ing halt and in­creas­ing pos­si­bil­ity of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil. It is quite shock­ing to ob­serve how the Prime Min­is­ter of Pak­istan, Yusuf Raza Gi­lani, has not com­plied with court or­ders and has de­lib­er­ately dis­re­garded the court by not writ­ing a let­ter to the Swiss gov­ern­ment to re­open graft cases against Pres­i­dent Asif Ali Zar­dari.

As a re­sult, on April 26, the Supreme Court passed a judg­ment that is said to have added more chaos than clar­ity to an al­ready messy and murky sit­u­a­tion. The Supreme Court handed down a sym­bolic pun­ish­ment last­ing just about 37 sec­onds to Prime Min­is­ter Yousuf Raza Gi­lani, mak­ing him the first ever chief ex­ec­u­tive to be con­victed for com­mit­ting con­tempt. In a judg­ment in De­cem­ber 2009, the Supreme Court had di­rected the gov­ern­ment to start pro­ceed­ings against Pres­i­dent Zar­dari but the prime min­is­ter had re­fused to com­ply on the pre­text that Zar­dari be­ing the head of state, en­joyed im­mu­nity. On May 8, 2012, the Supreme Court is­sued its de­tailed ver­dict in the con­tempt of court case against Prime Min­is­ter Yousuf Raza Gi­lani and set in mo­tion a new round of heated de­bate and dis­cus­sion on the fate of the in­cum­bent prime min­is­ter. The Supreme Court ver­dict read that the pre­mier had “will­fully, de­lib­er­ately and per­sis­tently de­fied a clear di­rec­tion of the high­est court of the coun­try”. It raised the pos­si­bil­ity that he could face a five-year dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion from be­ing elected to par­lia­ment or a provin­cial assem­bly.

On the other hand, the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Pak­istan con­tin­ues to worsen by the day as po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents in the shape of the PPP, PML (N), PTI, MQM, Ja­maat e Is­lami, JUI and ANP pre­pare for the next elec­tions. At the same time, the en­ergy cri­sis con­tin­ues, peo­ple are killed by tar­get killers in the streets of Karachi, in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion takes a nose dive, the com­mon man con­tin­ues to groan un­der gal­lop­ing prices and the power gap widens leading to daily street bat­tles. To cap it all, Pak­istan-US ties con­tinue to be on an un­even keel and the coun­try’s ex­ter­nal sta­bil­ity is fraught with dan­gers. Both Pak­istan and the US con­tinue to suf­fer from a huge con­fi­dence deficit while other na­tions in the vicin­ity, such as In­dia and Afghanistan, take ad­van­tage and the US re­turns their sen­ti­ments with over-friendly over­tures. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama pays a sur­prise visit to Afghanistan and even signs a bi­lat­eral agree­ment with Pres­i­dent Karzai while US Sec­re­tary of State, Hil­lary Clin­ton vis­its In­dia and lauds the coun­try for tak­ing steps to re­duce its de­pen­dence on Ira­nian oil, say­ing New Delhi has put it­self on the line to get Tehran back to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble. In Pak­istan, ev­ery­thing is al­most at a stand­still as the con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis lum­bers on with ex­perts say­ing due process of law will have to be fol­lowed to oust the con­victed prime min­is­ter in light of the Supreme Court’s judg­ment. Af­ter all, as was noted by the Supreme Court, the ex­ec­u­tive may ques­tion a court de­ci­sion, but it could not flout it – a point for the PM and his ad­vi­sors to pon­der.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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