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05 - 11 May , 2012
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THE ORCHARD ON FIRE
 
VIEWPOINT
VIEWPOINTGilani's Shameful Behaviour
by TARIQ BUTT

It is unthinkable that a prime minister or a president in any country of the world would shamelessly cling to his office even after being convicted by the highest court of the country. This can happen only in our country where Premier Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani is so thick skinned that he brazenly continues to occupy the office without any remorse, compunction or realisation of what he is doing and what message it gives to the outside world.
Why has Gilani chosen to stick to his office? The motive is no secret to any discerning or even ordinary soul. Not only he but President Asif Ali Zardari too and their Pakistan People's Party (PPP) are desperate to politically cash in on the conviction to hammer their mantra that superior courts always "victimise" and single them out for punishment. By brazenly clinging to his chair, Gilani has badly damaged himself and his party. If a person like him occupying the highest position in Pakistan plays havoc with court decision, it is stupid to expect from the common man to have any regard for judicial decisions. This attitude and well considered policy to throw to dustbin every vital ruling, is pushing Pakistan into a deep abyss and heralding the return of the law of jungle where might is always right.
Everyone agrees that Gilani would have raised his stature and earned kudos from the people had he made an announcement to quit in the very courtroom where he was found guilty for contempt of court. This would not have been a big deal for him because he has lived most part of his five-year term and just a few months are left to go. In any case, he will be out of office before February next for the new parliamentary elections. But Gilani doesn't like to stand up and be counted among the tall persons of the world, who would not stay in official slots after even being charged with any offence.
Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza GilaniBy hanging to his status, Gilani likes to be named day in and day out as a convicted Prime Minister. He has attracted the dubious distinction to be the only premier in the world today who has this stigma. But he is not bothered about the infamy that he has brought on himself as well as Pakistan, which already doesn't enjoy any good reputation in the comity of nations for a variety of reasons, one of them being massive corruption and mega scandals.
It is foolish on the part of the government to say again and again that it awaits the detailed judgment of Justice Nasirul Mulk led seven-member bench to proceed further and file an appeal. At any rate, the conviction that has been imposed on the short order will not go away in the full text. Rather, it will be reinforced and strengthened. Therefore, there is nothing in waiting for the elaborate verdict except a clear desire of the Prime Minister to cling to the office as long as he can on lame excuses. When the final judgment would be out and the stigma of conviction would be more pronounced and explained in detail, Gilani would be further blackened in the public eye. Had he chosen the high moral ground and relinquished charge the moment the conviction was announced, he would have gained politically, and set a healthy tradition. When he would be shunted out on the force of the judicial findings in the next few weeks, he would be deprived of getting any political dividends.
Instead of bowing out instantly after the pronouncement of the short order, the Prime Minister blatantly drove straight to the Prime Minister's house with full official protocol and presided over a federal cabinet meeting. This was immoral and mocking the apex court's decision. He did not stop there and went to the National Assembly the next day to declare that only Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza has the power to de-notify him as its member. Gilani, who is known for having little knowledge about the Constitution, law and rules, did not know that the Speaker has no power whatsoever to unseat him. It is the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that has the authority to disqualify a federal or provincial legislator on its own or on the basis of a court ruling.
Constitutional experts are of the unanimous view that the Speaker is required to act just like a post office in the instant case and has to forward the reference based on the court judgment to the ECP for issuance of notification to unseat Gilani as member of the National Assembly. However, the government has now fully banked on the Speaker to kill the reference concluding that the verdict doesn't specify ineligibility of the Prime Minister. But she has no such power, and if she did so, she would be committing contempt of court. Neither the Speaker nor any other individual or institution can judge a court judgment. Everyone has to follow and implement it in its true spirit.
Gilani was awarded minimum sentence – just 30 seconds till the rising of the court – and the order said he has been imposed smallest amount of term because the serious consequences that his conviction is likely to entail under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution are a mitigating factor. This means that the bench held him guilty of this constitutional provision as well. This clause says a person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Parliament, if he has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.
By invoking this clause, the short order in fact indicated at activating two constitutional forums – the NA Speaker and the ECP – to disqualify Gilani. In the normal course, the speaker ponders over the "question" of disqualification that is raised in a reference and if he or she comes to the conclusion that no such question has arisen, she will give such opinion and the matter will end there. The Speaker has to act within thirty days on such reference, and if he/she doesn't, the matter will be deemed to have been referred to the ECP. But here no question arises because it is a court judgment that has to be implemented. After receiving the reference from the Speaker, the ECP is bound to take a decision on it within ninety days. But in this case, the ECP can not take any independent decision; it has to follow the court ruling. This way, the powers of both the Speaker and the ECP are restricted and limited to the enforcement of the verdict.
The reaction of the government to Gilani's conviction is no different from the past. It has a long history of defying judicial decisions. Countless examples can be given showing that the regime has no regard or respect for the judgments. On the contrary, it has always acted against them. It is only because of this policy that Gilani has been awarded unprecedented punishment that will lead to his ultimate ouster from the coveted office. But still the government has no plan to write letters to Switzerland to reopen graft cases against President Zardari.

 
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