Will Gi­lani sur­vive?

Is Yousuf Raza Gi­lani try­ing to stick to the hal­lowed tra­di­tion of Pak­istan’s prime min­is­ters (and pres­i­dents) be­ing re­moved either by God or kicked out by men?

Southasia - - Contents - By S.G. Ji­la­nee S. G. Ji­la­nee is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and former edi­tor of Southa­sia Mag­a­zine.

Peo­ple are ask­ing why Yousuf Raza Gi­lani re­fuses to call it a day and go qui­etly back to his cozy gaddi about whose re­spectabil­ity Choudhry Aitezaz Ah­san, the In­dus Man, went lyri­cal be­fore the Supreme Court not long ago. They are amazed at Gi­lani’s tac­tic of stick­ing to his chair in spite of be­ing a con­vict and call it shame­less au­dac­ity. His own side, how­ever, af­fec­tion­ately calls him “Te­flon prime min­is­ter,” draw­ing a par­al­lel with US pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan who ini­tially held the ti­tle.

But here they ig­nore the sharp con­trast. Rea­gan earned the so­bri­quet for his non­cha­lant, al­most dis­dain­ful at­ti­tude to­wards crit­i­cism from his de­trac­tors. He never de­fied a court of law, nor was he ever con­victed for any felony.

Gaddi-nasheen Gi­lani, on the other hand, is a con­victed felon. The Supreme Court of Pak­istan sen­tenced him to jail “till the ris­ing of the court” for the of­fence of con­tempt in the face of the court. In­stead of be­ing mor­ti­fied and down­cast, the prime min­ster walked away af­ter serv­ing the pun­ish­ment with a broad smile, like the cul­prits af­ter be­ing pub­licly lashed on their bare but­tocks dur­ing the Zia ul Haq gov­ern­ment.

But, the gaddi nasheen is out to demon­strate the dif­fer­ence be­tween a prime min­is­ter and a peon. A peon sub­mits to the law but the law sub­mits to a prime min­is­ter. A peon can­not defy the or­ders of any court; a prime min­ster can defy even the Supreme Court. Be­sides, he is fol­low­ing the hal­lowed tra­di­tion set by his pre­de­ces­sors. None of them had the chance to com­plete their con­sti­tu­tion­ally man­dated term of of­fice. They were either as­sas­si­nated (Li­aquat Ali Khan) or forced out.

Those who watch him thump­ing his chest and claim­ing that no one ( ex­cept a non-con­fi­dence mo­tion against him car­ried through in the Na­tional Assem­bly) can re­move him from of­fice, re­call how, Prime Min­is­ter Be­nazir Bhutto had shouted at the peak of her voice in the par­lia­ment that no­body had brought her into power and no­body can re­move her from power. Yet within days of her bravado speech she was booted out. Like­wise, ZAB had thumped at the arms of his chair be­fore TV cam­eras and roared, “This chair is strong.” Yet, only a cou­ple of days he was top­pled from the same chair. But Gi­lani seems to have a short mem­ory.

Didn’t Gi­lani know that his in­ter­locu­tors in Bri­tain were aware of this ugly side of his char­ac­ter? Yet, he went there with more than six dozen cheer­lead­ers and drum­beat­ers in tow and had the temer­ity to grin. He even gave an in­ter­view to BBC’s Becky An­der­sen. And when it was pointed out to him that ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Gallup study nearly 30 per cent of Pak­ista­nis want to leave the coun­try, he cyn­i­cally asked, “Why don’t they leave then? Who is stop­ping them?” If that is not crass chutz­pah, then you don’t know what chutz­pah is.

As to the Supreme Court’s short or­der, it may be di­vided into two parts. One is the pun­ish­ment di­rectly awarded. That part has been ex­e­cuted. The other part that re­lates to his con­duct has wider ram­i­fi­ca­tions. It found that Gi­lani’s de­fi­ant re­fusal to im­ple­ment the NRO ver­dict fully, was “sub­stan­tially detri­men­tal to the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice’ and that it had brought ‘this court and the ju­di­ciary of this coun­try into ridicule.”

In the de­tailed judg­ment this view has been fur­ther clar­i­fied. This part of the rul­ing, since it in­eluctably in­vokes Ar­ti­cle 63(1) (g) of the Con­sti­tu­tion, points to the in­di­rect con­se­quences. To re­move any am­bi­gu­ity about whether or not Ar­ti­cle 63(1) (g) would ap­ply to the case, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the only mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor in pass­ing a le­nient sen­tence against Gi­lani is that he is likely to suf­fer fur­ther pun­ish­ment un­der this ar­ti­cle of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 63(1) (g): “A per­son shall be dis­qual­i­fied from be­ing a mem­ber of the par­lia­ment if ‘he has been con­victed …for prop­a­gat­ing any opin­ion, or act­ing in any man­ner, prej­u­di­cial to ... the in­tegrity or in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary of Pak­istan, or which de­fames or brings into ridi- cule the ju­di­ciary ...”

The Short Or­der has found Gi­lani guilty of hav­ing “brought the ju­di­ciary into ridicule,” by his de­fi­ant con­duct. There can be no ques­tion there­fore, that he should face the penalty pre­scribed un­der Ar­ti­cle 63(1) (g), de­spite all the ral­lies taken out and res­o­lu­tions passed in his sup­port by the jiyalas of his party.

The ap­pli­ca­tion of Ar­ti­cle 63(1) (g) is re­quired to be set in mo­tion by the speaker of the Na­tional Assem­bly un­der Ar­ti­cle 63(2), which reads as fol­lows:

“If any ques­tion arises whether

a mem­ber of Ma­jlis-e-Shoora (Par­lia­ment) has be­come dis­qual­i­fied from be­ing a mem­ber, the Speaker or, as the case may be, the Chair­man shall, un­less he de­cides that no such ques­tion has arisen, re­fer the ques­tion to the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion within thirty days and should he fail to do so within the afore­said pe­riod it shall be deemed to have been re­ferred to the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion.”

And Ar­ti­cle 63 (3) lays down that “The Elec­tion Com­mis­sion shall de­cide the ques­tion within ninety days from its re­ceipt or deemed to have been re­ceived and if it is of the opin­ion that the mem­ber has be­come dis­qual­i­fied, he shall cease to be a mem­ber and his seat shall be­come va­cant.”

Speaker Fehmida Mirza took her full time to pon­der over the is­sue and gave her de­ci­sion just a few days be­fore the end of the time limit. In her rul­ing she found that “no spe­cific charge re­gard­ing the prop­a­ga­tion of any opin­ion or act­ing in any man­ner against the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary or de­fam­ing or ridi­cul­ing the ju­di­ciary as con­tem­plated un­der Ar­ti­cle 63 (1) (g) has been framed” (by the apex court).

Based on the above find­ing she formed the view that “the charges against Syed Yousuf Raza Gi­lani are not re­lat­able to the grounds men­tioned in para­graph (g) or (h) of clause (1) of Ar­ti­cle 63, there­fore, no ques­tion of dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion of Syed Yousuf Raza Gi­lani from be­ing a mem­ber arises un­der clause (2) of Ar­ti­cle 63 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

The Speaker and the prime min­is­ter are now com­pli­ment­ing each other. She is stress­ing her author­ity to de­cide. He is trum­pet­ing that the power of the par­lia­ment tran­scends all other in­sti­tu­tions and that the speaker’s ver­dict is un­chal­lenge­able in any court of law.

None­the­less, the PML ( N) and PTI have chal­lenged the speaker’s rul­ing. The is­sue there­fore is far from closed.

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