All political players in the ruling coalition have resolved to ‘protect’ democracy in case Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani loses his office in the event of a conviction by the Supreme Court in the contempt case.
“It was our decision, our commitment. We will not let the system fall in any case. Even if Gilani has to go,” said a senior Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader on the eve of the premier appearing before the apex court to face contempt charges.
President Asif Ali Zardari chaired the meeting of key leaders from all the parties from governing coalition and at least three officials from various groups said all had assured their support to the system.
“Everybody looked to be on the same page … all said they would stand behind democracy,” the PPP official added in what appeared to be calculated remarks without explicitly mentioning whether the allies’ backing was only for the system or for the premier as well. None of the officials who spoke to The Express Tribune were, however, forthcoming to elaborate what would be the plan in case Gilani had to step down after facing conviction in the case after failing to implement the 2009 court decision on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
At the centre of the NRO lies a conflict between the government and the top judicial body on whether Gilani, as the chief executive, should write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen closed graft case against President Zardari.
The PPP had been maintaining that Zardari was immune from any criminal charges against him as long as he holds office, while the Supreme Court insisted Gilani would have to send a letter to Switzerland in any case.
The participant at the meeting said there was a consensus among all the coalition partners that the letter would never be written. “That is out of question … there is no way our government can do that,” the PPP leader said.
There were fears of trouble at the court premises on Thursday as MPs from the ruling coalition and PPP workers had been asked to accompany the premier as they did last time.
On the other hand, lawyers from local bar councils have also apparently decided to converge at the main boulevard in front of the Supreme Court to support Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry against the government.
Tight security measures have been ordered to avoid any trouble.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2012.