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30 June - 06 July , 2012

VIEWPOINTUnsung Ouster Of Gilani, And His Equally Corrupt Successor

No tears were shed across Pakistan when Yousuf Raza Gilani was ousted as prime minister after being disqualified as member of the National Assembly by the Supreme Court. Why should anybody mourn? What did he deliver to the nation that it should come out on streets to protest his removal? What is the legacy he has left? Nothing except despair, monumental corruption, worst governance and cronyism. On a day when the apex court booted him out, many parts of the homeland President Asif Ali Zardariwere in flames with violent demonstrations to protest Gilani's most despicable gift of unprecedentedly prolonged power outages that has crippled industry and business especially in Punjab.
Adding insult to the injury has been Gilani's replacement, Raja Pervez Ashraf, cynically but aptly dubbed as Rental Raja, for his massive corruption, stamped by the Supreme Court in its judgment that rescinded all the Rental Power Projects (RPPs). If Gilani was intellectually average, Ashraf is even blow that. However, the duo absolutely match each other in corruption of billions of rupees. It is no less than a cruel joke that the destiny of 180 million people has been given in the hands of a man, who, as water & power minister, caused huge damages to Pakistan. The man who makes people's lives miserable by his incompetence and corruption in the energy sector for years, has been bestowed the highest office in the land. To expect that Ashraf will do anything that alleviates the nagging problem or has the capacity to do it, is simply foolish. He is another nobody in this world of pygmies.
In its landmark judgment on scrapping thirteen RPPs, including the one belonging to Turkey, handed down three months back, the apex court directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to proceed against Ashraf, his predecessor and dozens of top officials concerned with power generation for the past six years. Had the NAB been honest and its Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari law-abiding and fair, he would have arrested Ashraf much before assuming the office of the prime minister. The entire investigation, which the NAB has conducted in the wake of the court ruling that was meant to push the crimes under the carpet, is that it once called Ashraf to its office, and instead of questioning him as an Syed Yousuf Raza Gilaniaccused is required to be, offered him VVIP treatment. It is totally unexpected that the Supreme Court will ignore the NAB's criminal negligence and will certainly take notice not in the very distant future as all the corrupt people who amassed billions in the award of the RPPs have to be arraigned.
Ashraf's nomination reflects the deep-seated mindset of President Asif Ali Zardari. Come what may and whatever the Supreme Court decides, he will do everything to defy and ridicule it. Ashraf was declared thoroughly corrupt, but the President picked him up for the top slot.
The real candidate was poor Makhdoom Shahabuddin, a relatively clean person except for his alleged involvement in the ephedrine import quota scandal in which Gilani's son, Ali Musa, is also an accused. Almost coinciding with the filing of nomination papers for the office of the prime minister by Shahabuddin, a Rawalpindi court issued his and Ali Musa's arrest warrants on the request of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) on the basis of its preliminary investigations into the Rs7 billion scandal. The President feared that Shahabuddin would be apprehended by the ANF even before his election as premier. Therefore, he was abruptly dropped. The lady luck favoured Ashraf, who was actually a covering candidate of Shahabuddin. The other covering candidate, Qamar Zaman, who is generally billed as clean, was not considered by Zardari for the top position.
Pakistan never got such a mediocre and corrupt prime minister as Gilani in its recent history. The only feature he can boast of is that he has a sprawling wardrobe of designers' clothes. It was extremely sickening to see the prime minister wearing highly expensive suits, changing twice in a day, when people were committing suicide due to dire poverty and the country has been pushed in the darkness due to Prime Ministerpower cutoffs. Gilani was shorn of any intelligence to grasp burning issues that Pakistan is confronted with. His bad governance under President Asif Ali Zardari's tutelage pushed Pakistan several years back. A lot of hard and honest work spanning a very long time would be required to retrieve it from the abyss it has gone into now. When Zardari chose him for the top office in 2008 ignoring key figures like Ahmed Mukhtar, Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, his only consideration was that Gilani would be very docile, loyal and committed to him. He proved 100% correct as the ousted premier came up to all his expectations. Every outgoing prime minister takes pride in his achievements that he makes during his stay in office. What has Gilani to pride himself on?
His over four-year rule has landed Pakistan in a place where it never was when his period is compared with the similar length of tenure of any ruler, civilian or military. Pakistan was never as worse off as it is today. The country has much more agonizing load-shedding, more foreign debts, more unemployment, more corruption, much more price hike, many more suicides due to financial woes, many more killings in Karachi and chaos, anarchy and disarray all around. Indeed, Herculean effort is required by future governments to pull the country of this dark alley.
Gilani always thought that he would become a political martyr evoking tremendous public sympathy if he was booted out by the apex court. However, his dream could not come true as was evidenced by the mute public reaction on his ouster. By refusing to write the letter to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Zardari on the direction of the Supreme Court contained in its December 16, 2009 judgment on the notorious National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), he committed contempt of court and earned conviction that a contemnor deserves. Thus, he proved his unequivocal loyalty to the President.
The same unresolved issue of sending letter to Switzerland haunts the new Prime Minister. The case is ripe and not too many questions are to be put to Ashraf by the Supreme Court except one whether or not he would write the letter. If he replied in the negative, he too would go Gilani's way. Ashraf doesn't have a long period for honeymoon. He will have to act quickly.
The apex court ruling disqualifying Gilani also turned down the argument of Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, a diehard party cardholder, that no question of his disqualification arose due to his conviction by Justice Nasirul Mulk led seven-member bench. The Speaker, under Article 63(2) of the Constitution, exercises powers which are not covered by the definition of internal proceedings of National Assembly. Therefore, the Supreme Court, in exercise of power of judicial review, is not barred from inquiring into her order of May 25 in which she rejected the verdict, the decision said. The seven-judge panel found Gilani guilty of contempt of court under Article 204(2), 1973 read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment till rising of the court, and since no appeal was filed against this judgment, the conviction attained finality. Therefore, Gilani became disqualified from being MP and also ceased to be the prime minister.
The government may have to seriously weigh the advice of legal minds who counseled it not to appeal against Gilani's conviction before a larger panel of judges with the fear that the expanded bench would disqualify him. Appeal is always a facility available to the accused persons that they avail in the hope that the penalty may be reduced. This opportunity was frittered away by the inane legal counsel.

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