Contempt charges: Gilani is primed for the worst

Published: February 13, 2012

PM says there is no need for him to resign as, if convicted, he shouldn't even be a member of the parliament. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: On the eve of facing contempt charges in the Supreme Court today, the prime minister gave a candid, forthright interview to Al-Jazeera.

On Sunday, some 18 hours ahead of the court proceedings, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani shed light on his possible plans. Judging by his comments, the embattled premier seems prepared to face the dire consequences and even to return home as a former prime minister.

Gilani’s message to the TV channel had two main strands: that President Asif Ali Zardari enjoys immunity under the Constitution; and that the PM cannot implement the court order asking the government to write a letter to the Swiss authorities seeking reopening of money laundering cases against the president.

When asked if he would step down if convicted, Gilani replied: “Certainly. If the SC convicts me, I would not remain a part of parliament too.”

For the PM, the cases against Zardari are all politically motivated – and somewhat misguided.

“He has got immunity. And he has not got immunity only in Pakistan, he has transnational immunity even all over the world,” he said.

Asked if he would rather resign for the sake of the president, Gilani said that, if he is convicted of contempt, he will automatically lose office, so there was no need for him to quit. “There’s no need to step down. If I’m convicted, then I’m not supposed to be a member of parliament.”

The premier is, however, confident in his legal team. “We have to think about the merits of this case. I appeared before the SC and my lawyer, one of the principal workers in the lawyers’ movement, is capable of handling the case. It would not happen as you have visualised,” he told Al Jazeera.

Gilani is sticking to the stance he has maintained throughout – that the letter cannot be written, but with the Supreme Court insisting it must be, indictment is inevitable.

This state of affairs differentiates him from his predecessors.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) founder Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the first premier to face contempt proceedings, after he banned the Awami National Party (ANP) in 1974. The charge was dropped in 1976 due to the absence of proper evidence required for framing charges against Bhutto.

Years later, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif faced contempt charges in 1997 over the appointment controversy of SC judges. The premier was eventually exonerated after he submitted an apology.

Gilani is the third PM to face contempt of court charges, this time for not implementing the apex court order on the controversial amnesty deal sponsored by former military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

The court nullified the ordinance in December 2009 and the judgment has not been implemented, in letter and spirit, to date.

The SC had conveyed its message loud and clear earlier this week when it rejected an intra-court appeal from Gilani and directed him to appear in the court so that it could frame charges against him.

Legal wizards are not on the same page whether presidential immunity, under article 45 of the Constitution, can quash Gilani’s conviction and sentence as it did in the case of Sharif.

In Al Jazeera interview, the PM also denied that the army, or anyone else other than the government, was in charge of the country. “We are following the Constitution of the country. According to the Constitution, the chief executive is the ultimate authority. Therefore, if you think that someone is running the country unconstitutionally, you are wrong in that assumption.”

“At the moment, I have good relations with the military,” the PM added.

Other subjects were discussed, including drone attacks and the Osama bin Laded raid, with the PM reiterating his earlier positions, insisting that Pakistan had total sovereignty. The PM also strongly denied any government links to the Taliban, and said that the Council of Islamic Ideology would decide on revisions to the blasphemy law.

(Read: To do as the court says)

Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Saleem
    Feb 13, 2012 - 5:49AM

    All this to defend one person . Is it worth it? Shouldn’t there be country first rather than individuals?Recommend

  • Nosherwan Shahid Shaikh
    Feb 13, 2012 - 5:55AM

    The court wants to maintain its writ. Sure the omnipotent Zardari has immunity, but you can also tender an apology to maintain the courts writ.

    The court wants itself to be respected, it is saying this loud and clear. Recommend

  • K B Kale
    Feb 13, 2012 - 6:10AM

    “Presidential pardon” is above any judicial review. It is the ‘done’ thing. The most infamous pardon was President Ford’s pardon of Nixon. Whether it was out of pity or as a part of a deal, it was never reopened. That is what a “Presidential pardon” is! Period!!
    So if Mush pardoned all the crooks is ‘done’ thing and can’t be reviewed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court (PSC)!
    Whether Mush did that voluntarily or under pressure, is immaterial. It is final.
    Why is PSC devaluing the Presidency pf its own country?

    Recommend

  • Saad
    Feb 13, 2012 - 6:15AM

    playing with fire, eh Gilani?

    Recommend

  • Imran
    Feb 13, 2012 - 6:31AM

    @Saleem:
    The other side of the argument is that “All this to take revenge from one person. Shouldn’t there be constitution and law first rather than personal vendetta”.

    Recommend

  • Silent Spectator
    Feb 13, 2012 - 7:00AM

    Today’s hearing is a win-win situation for the PPP and the current government. The judiciary is literally handing the PPP a victory in the next elections on a silver platter. This is how this its going to go down today. PM Gilani will appear in front of the Supreme Court and emerge as a hero. He will be convicted by the Supreme Court and hours later he will be pardoned by the President. This whole episode will enable Gilani and the PPP to emerge once again as sacrificial lambs and ensure victory in the next elections. What a game plan, hats off to Gilani, PPP, and Zardari.

    Recommend

  • Chilli
    Feb 13, 2012 - 7:30AM

    PM is not setting good example by standing against court’s decision. What message a common citizen will get??

    Recommend

  • zubair khan
    Feb 13, 2012 - 7:46AM

    “…and my lawyer, one of the principal workers in the lawyers’ movement, is capable of handling the case”

    so the whole idea of having Mr. Ahsan as your lawyer is to win favour of the SC bcause he was instrumental in getting the CJ restored?? too bad, not only did Mr. Atizaz Ahsan lose respect in the eyes of the ordinary citizen of Pakistan by representing a corrupt PM, but he hasn’t had a joy ride in front of the SC Judges too!

    Recommend

  • Feb 13, 2012 - 8:06AM

    @Saleem: Yes indeed! All this for one individual whose bona fides are in doubt.

    Where can he go? To top it all, the PPP walas say, only the decisions of the so-called core committee will they obey. If this is not openly brandishing defiance in the face of the law, then what is it? Mr. Gillani should be “read from the Book.”

    Again, thanx to USA and Musharraf.

    Recommend

  • H.A. Khan
    Feb 13, 2012 - 8:10AM

    Really, Supreme Court has to give out exemplary punishment.This is open defiance and contempt..If this is not done,every SHO/Government Official will start interpreting the law the way he wants and defying Courts order.

    Recommend

  • Disappointed
    Feb 13, 2012 - 8:26AM

    @K B Kale:
    Presidential pardon still does not absolve someone from the blemish and hence practically make him disqualified for the national assembly…

    Recommend

  • Singh
    Feb 13, 2012 - 8:40AM

    Pakistan supreme Court is out of loop. KB Kalley is absolutely right what he stated. CJ need to read law again or retire.

    Recommend

  • anybodyagree
    Feb 13, 2012 - 9:15AM

    Both the President and The Chief Justice are controversial personalities & their past is Tinted as well, so both of them should resign for the sake of people & the Country . . .????

    Recommend

  • Aamir
    Feb 13, 2012 - 9:33AM

    He doesn’t care anymore because he made enough money thru corruption

    Recommend

  • Hamid Ali
    Feb 13, 2012 - 9:43AM

    All of the criticism related to PM Gilani is in Bughz-e-Muwaiya than in Hubb-e-Ali. President Zardari is considered Muawiya, just because part of the media and people dont like him. At the end of the day, he is the consitutional head of state, how can the state write against its head? it’s like your chowkidar registering an FIR against the head of a house! Also we do not see precedence when the sitting head of state is tried in a court of law. The President has clearly stated the day I am not President, write the letter.
    One must also appreciate that if the letter is written, wont that be the contempt of the constitution? We are not looking at what is in black and white but are chasing interpretations!

    Recommend

  • Ayesha
    Feb 13, 2012 - 11:14AM

    What shall happen when Zardari is no longer a President?
    Sooner or later his term shall also expire.
    Unfortunately we dont live in a country where a computerized referendum of Public would tell us what the people of Pakistan want. If that was the case a simple referendum would tell us if the President should be having immunity or not.
    We have a Prime Minister that serves the President and not the people of Pakistan. What a shame!. It would be better if we are without him. Elections Khappy.

    Recommend

  • butt jee
    Feb 13, 2012 - 2:09PM

    @Ayesha:
    It may not be possible till we have sufficient computer literacy in the rural areas of Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • butt jee
    Feb 13, 2012 - 2:17PM

    Justice should not be delayed. People of Pakistan want quick justice. We are an aggrieved party because our PM has betrayed us and his oath. The PM has preferred to uphold his allegiance to a corrupt person over his allegiance to the people of Pakistan.

    Recommend

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