The judiciary has played havocs with Pakistan. Often it has justified
the military coup in the country through the dictum of necessity and
at few times it has supported the democratic ethos. Every time the
people have paid the price.
This time it has not been different. Prime Minister Yusuf Gillani has
been disqualified and he had no option except to resign to make place
for a new prime minister. Yet the people have to bear the brunt. With
no electricity, no water and no reprieve from increasing prices, the
people would have expected the government to attend to their
problems—they even came to the streets to protest—but the ruling
Pakistan People’s Party, or its boss, President Asif Zardari, have a
different priority. Their all attention has been focused on how to
secure their loyal successor to Gillani.
Coming to Gillani, he sacrificed himself to protect Zardari who had
been held guilty for having stacked billions of dollars in Swiss
banks. The Supreme Court asked Gillani to write to the Swiss
authorities to get information about Zardari’s bank account. Gillani
refused and joined issue with the Supreme Court which held him guilty
for contempt of the Court. This was as far back as April 26 this year.
Gillani neither went in for appeal nor did he bother about the
punishment for contempt.
Instead, Gillani went to Pakistan’s National assembly to get
endorsement for his stand and, surprisingly, the house gave him full
support. Even the Speaker, Fehmida Mirza, who had no business to
comment on the judiciary, and an independent arm of the Parliamentary
system, said that the Prime Minister did not have to comply with the
Supreme Court’s order, laying down a new dictum that Parliament was
superior to the judiciary.
It was a civilian coup of sorts. The arrangement would have come to
stay if the army, the real power in Pakistan, had sided with the
government. But the army was angry with the Gillani government which
had vainly tried to bring ISI under the civilian authority. Even other
wise, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Parvez Kayani does not have
an appetite for a direct military rule. He has found back driving
useful because in this way he rules without having any responsibility.
Had he sided with Gillani he would have taken on the Supreme Court,
more so Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry who has caught the
imagination of people after forcing through a popular agitation former
Chief of Staff General Pervez for the restoration of the supremacy of
the judiciary. Since then the Supreme Court has been the custodian of
The outgoing Prime Minister Gillani, a believer in the rule of law,
could have saved himself by telling the Supreme Court that he would
write to the Swiss authorities about Zardari’s hidden wealth. But he
preferred to be a sati, a custom among the Hindus in Rajasthan where
the wife burns herself along with her dead husband.
I can understand a person staking everything on principles. Gillani
did so not to bring Zardari to the book. In Gillani’s case, the more
apt word is hari-kari (suicide). Maybe, he had political compulsions.
Probably Zardari chose him because he found in him the best stalking
horse available. The next Prime Minister would also have to keep quiet
on Zardari’s money abroad. This is the requirement which the Pakistan
President must have laid down before selecting the Prime Minister.
That means that Zaradari’s confrontation with the Supreme Court will
have no respite.
The fallout of Gillani’s ousting is positive and it means that the
independence of judiciary has come to stay in Pakistan. This rectifies
the earlier practice when the Chief Justices would succumbed before
the military’s pressure. Chief Justice Chaudhry has rightly said in
his judgment: “Where will be the independence of judiciary go if the
executive examines of ruling of a seven-judge bench”.
I recall the time when the eminent lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan was offered
the prime ministership. But he correctly said ‘no’ because he told
Zardari that there could not be two parallel authorities in a country.
Aitzaz has been proved correct. Zardari cannot play a second fiddle,
although the office of President he occupies makes him a figure head.
I think that Aitzaz was not justified in defending Gillani because
the latter was in the wrong and had refused to write to Swiss
authorities about Zardari’s money which runs into billions of dollars
and which rightly belongs to Pakistan. Aitzaz may have won on some
technical point but the question was not legal but moral. Yet all
marks to Gillani who knowingly took his stand which he knew would not
stand the scrutiny of law.
The best course now is to have elections after Ramzan and in the
meanwhile the administration should be entrusted to an interim
government, an arrangement that the Pakistan constitution provides.
PPP has been caught on a wrong foot and the Gillani episode is going
to hurt the party at the next polls. Its performance too has been
below par and the electorate will not forget this, more so Zardari’s
money at Swiss bank, on the polling day.
The petitions by Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan to the Supreme Court
brought the government down crashing. Otherwise, Gillani would have
continued as he did after April 26, when he was found guilty for
disobeying the Court in committed to contempt. Although the sentence
was for one day but as the petitioner had pleaded, a Prime Minister
who had been sentenced even for day could not continue in office. The
Supreme Court upheld the plea.
Yet I sympathise with Gillani and I think that the statues should be
built in Pakistan to remember that there are still some people who
sacrifice all theirs for loyalty. These are very rare things and they
should not go unnoticed, unapplauded . Whether he should have declined
to be a sati is a matter for him to decide. But there is no doubting
about his sacrifice and his loyalty. EOM.