Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani turned to legal gymnastics on Monday to argue that he was a victim of “pre-trial” opinions and as such not guilty of contempt charges as he made his stoutest refusal till date to write a letter to the Swiss authorities against President Asif Ali Zardari.
His vehemence – as demonstrated in his written reply to the Supreme Court – betrayed a lack of confidence in the judges hearing the contempt of court case. And the prime minister brought that up when he claimed that he had not been given a “fair trial.”
He also invoked Articles 248(2) and (3) of the Constitution to stress upon the president’s blanket immunity against criminal prosecution, saying that President Zardari should not be dragged out in front of a foreign magistrate.
The 24-page reply, submitted by Aitzaz Ahsan’s associate Barrister Gauhar, does suggest other ‘options.’ These are to either refer the case to parliament, or simply leave the decision up to the people of the country. In fact, he said that it was best that people as “judges of the last resort” and “highest worldly sovereigns” decide his fate.
The premier argued that presidents the world over enjoy immunity. “I think it is a humiliation of the Constitution and the state’s sovereignty to present the president in front of a foreign magistrate.” However, once Zardari’s presidential tenure ends, he said, the court is free to carry out any proceedings against him.
Gilani believes there is no willful evidence to suggest that he has disregarded court orders. “I have committed no contempt, nor have I tried to.” He maintains to have “acted strictly in accordance with the rules governing business.”
He said even if he did make an “honest” mistake, the court should point it out as an error, instead of prosecuting him. In his reply, he has alluded to previous leaders who have not been indicted because “the correctness of the opinion of the prime minster could not be questioned as long as grounds existed.”
However, it is for the court to decide whether such ‘grounds’ exist or not.
Gilani stressed that it was the duty of the state to protect its incumbent president from appearing in a foreign court.
The statement also reproduced paragraphs that had been omitted from his earlier intra-court appeal. In them, he upheld how he released and reinstated the arrested judges only to be framed by the same.
He has asked the court to withdraw the contempt charges and recall the notice issued on March 8 asking him to write a letter to the Swiss authorities.
Citing an earlier order dated January 10, Gilani said that the court had itself given six options. Now, he could not understand “why the most coercive one was chosen.” He appealed to the court to refer the matter to Parliament, as was done in the case of the 18th Amendment, or let the citizens of the state decide.
The Supreme Court will continue its proceedings on March 21.
For the full text of PM’s reply, visit: http://www.scribd.com/doc/85957356/Full-Text-of-Prime-Minister-Yousaf-Raza-Gilani-s-Reply-Submitted-in-Supreme-Court
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2012.