The Let­ter - At Last!

The let­ter to re­open cor­rup­tion cases against Pres­i­dent Zar­dari has fi­nally been writ­ten to the Swiss courts. The end re­sult, how­ever, seems in­creas­ingly un­clear.

Southasia - - Front page - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

In Per­sian there is a proverb, which trans­lates as, “What a clever per­son does, a fool may also do, but af­ter a good deal of trou­ble.” Ben­galis how­ever, are more forth­right. They sim­ply say that a “don­key mud­dies the water be­fore drink­ing.” Both say­ings ap­ply to the government led by the PPP.

A wise per­son would have at once com­plied with the or­ders of the Supreme Court. He would have writ­ten the let­ter to the Swiss government re­quest­ing it to re­open the case into Asif Zar­dari’s al­leged dis­hon­est mil­lions as di­rected. But Prime Min­is­ter Syed Yousuf Raza Gi­lani, was not among them. He lacked the vi­sion and the in­tel­lec­tual ca­pac­ity to judge. For him, per­sonal loy­alty to the pres­i­dent en­joyed pri­or­ity over obe­di­ence to the law. He there­fore, de­murred and dithered. He cited pres­i­den­tial im­mu­nity. But im­mu­nity could be in­voked in the event of in­dict­ment for a crim­i­nal of­fence. In the in­stant case the apex court had only or­dered the government to write a let­ter to the Swiss government. This did not amount to any crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing per se. The dis­tinc­tion be­tween ac­tual trial and mak­ing a re­quest through a let­ter to re­open the in­quiry was, how­ever, lost on Gi­lani.

The Supreme Court there­fore stuck to its or­der. Ul­ti­mately when he had no ar­gu­ment left to pro­cras­ti­nate fur­ther and it ap­peared that he was in no mood to com­ply, it charged Gi­lani for con­tempt. Even then he failed to grasp the full im­port of the cri­sis be­fore him.

Adopt­ing a defiant pos­ture, Gi­lani went to ap­pear be­fore the Court and did so in a pro­ces­sion thus politi­ciz­ing the is­sue. Be­sides spir­ited speeches in the

Shura de­fend­ing his stand on the sub­ject, he even aired the mat­ter in pub­lic meet­ings. Ex­plain­ing his ac­tion, Gi­lani said at the Ba­hawalpur Is­lamic Univer­sity con­vo­ca­tion on March 15, that be­cause writ­ing the let­ter would be trea­son, which car­ried death penalty, while not writ­ing it would en­tail a six month jail, “It’s bet­ter to face six months’ im­pris­on­ment than face the death sen­tence.”

Ear­lier the same day at a pub­lic meet- ing at Mailsi, he said he was prime min­is­ter, not a peon, in oblique re­minder to the Court that he could not be or­dered around. To some ob­servers such an­tics re­vived the me­mory of Bholu Pa­hal­wan danc­ing be­fore Inoke in a taunt­ing mode, only to be crushed when push came to shove.

For his de­fense, Gi­lani hired bar­ris­ter Aitezaz Ah­san. In­stead of coun­sel­ing him to com­ply, Gi­lani’s at­tor­ney re­sorted to otiose an­tics, lac­ing the myth of Gi­lani’s re­spectabil­ity with re­li­gious over­tones, by in­vok­ing his sta­tus as the “gaddi nasheen” at a saint’s dar­gah.

Their lord­ships how­ever re­mained unim­pressed. Ul­ti­mately Prime Min­is­ter Yousuf Raza Gi­lani was sen­tenced to im­pris­on­ment till the ris­ing of the court. Though the penalty was sym­bolic, last­ing only a few min­utes, it left Gi­lani to­tally dev­as­tated.

In a moment he was trans­formed from hero to zero. Gone was not only his of­fice as prime min­is­ter but he even

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