Held in contempt

Published: February 3, 2012

Supreme Court says charges will be framed against the prime minister in the next hearing. PHOTO: PID/FILE

As the extraordinary soap opera that is Pakistan’s politics continues, we have a new moment of high drama. In a unique situation, a sitting prime minister has been indicted by the Supreme Court in the contempt of court case against him.

The case, of course, stems from the failure of the government to write a letter to Swiss authorities requesting a reopening of cases, following the striking down of General Pervez Musharraf controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by the apex court. The arguments of Mr Gilani’s counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan, that he was not an entirely free actor in this matter and needed to follow the advice of the Law Ministry and Human Rights Division was given short shrift by the nine-member bench, which had asked why the PM had failed to follow the advice of the courts in the first place.

This decision, of course, brings the NRO affair to a head. The prime minister has now been asked to appear before the court on February 13 for the framing of charges. This could be another moment of drama. But the relatively long time period set suggests that the court believes the government may be able to put up a case and that, for now, not all is settled. The new summary presented by Aitzaz, stating that no cases exist in Switzerland against the prime minister or the president following the NRO also raises some issues, while the counsel has also mentioned the possibility of filing an intra-court appeal.

What is most important at this juncture is to keep things simple; to do the ‘right’ thing, show restraint and follow the law. The law of our land is quite clearly written out in the Constitution — which sets out in clear terms the role of institutions. These roles need to be adhered to if we are to avoid anarchy. The period of 10 days set by the court should also allow the government some time to think, reflect on all that has happened and accept that the letter to the Swiss authorities must, indeed, be written if we are to see order and the continued functioning of a democracy which must move on despite the bumps it encounters along the way. That all said, one can’t help but wonder why the superior courts never held any military dictator in contempt of the Constitution.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2012.

Reader Comments (9)

  • Disco
    Feb 3, 2012 - 5:42AM

    show restraint

    Show restraint? Restraint from what? From blatantly voilating the constitution? Who is threatening the democracy now?

    Recommend

  • Disco
    Feb 3, 2012 - 5:45AM

    one can’t help but wonder why the superior courts never held any military dictator in contempt of the Constitution.

    Selective memory? The courts have only been free for the past 4 years, and no military man has violated the constitution since then. Pls stop trying to distort the facts in your quest for whatever agenda you have been given to follow by the New York Times.Recommend

  • plaintalk
    Feb 3, 2012 - 7:47AM

    The last sentence is very funny. It is like when one is caught stealing, he complains “why me?” Why not catch all the other thieves. Shouldn’t the move be supported as the first step in the right direction to be followed up with casting the net on the holy ones?

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  • Lalai
    Feb 3, 2012 - 8:28AM

    Extremely well written. Supreme court is not willing to abide by constitutional provisions.However, on the other hand, it is practically giving immunity to all military dictators. Very sad.

    Recommend

  • Farhan Gilgiti
    Feb 3, 2012 - 10:21AM

    One wishes the SC would show similar juvenile enthusiasm on the cases of missing people of Balochistan and elsewhere, or the case of Air Marshal Asghar Khan.

    Selectivity in application of law is equal to injustice.

    Democratic governments are softer targets. When CJ was being whisked and pushed around in Islamabad, it wasn’t being done by Musharraf himself. His intelligence agencies and their heads were equally responsible.

    Justice means action in all directions. It is does not mean sparing some and targeting others.

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  • oria
    Feb 3, 2012 - 11:49AM

    These judges playing politics. it very clear…… I have no faith on these courts now.

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  • Liberal
    Feb 3, 2012 - 3:59PM

    These are politicians and not judges. They are playing politics.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Feb 3, 2012 - 7:57PM

    I have already said Good Bye to Mr. Gilani.

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Feb 3, 2012 - 10:38PM

    I have written a few comments early morning but none was posted. This drama can be easily quashed like Mansoor Ijaz did with the ISI and SC. Let the SC make any decision. Then give the PM presidential pardon according to the constitution. This would suck the oxygen out of this baloon also. What else would be left for the PCO SC judges after that?
    Why cannot these judges digest the fact that Zardari is an elected President and Internationl laws and Pakistani constitution gave him the immunity. In addition he has powers of presidential pardon. Live with it. People have elected the current govt well after the Swiss cases which these same judges could not decide themselves while keeping Zardari in jail for over a decade. Recommend

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