Question but don’t flout
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.