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.
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