In his 24-page response to the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has made it clear that he has no intentions of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities, which could bring about a reopening of cases against individuals, including President Asif Ali Zardari. The stance, of course, brings the executive into direct conflict with the judiciary; fierce party loyalty is also involved. The prime minister has already said that he is willing to go to jail rather than to write a letter and this, at least for now, has become a central issue on our political landscape.
The defiance of the court opens up many dilemmas. There is also an argument which suggests it is crucial to get to the bottom of what happened in the Swiss cases involving corruption worth billions. But there are also some simple facts that need to be faced. Emotions, rhetoric and accusations alone will lead us nowhere. Eventually, it is the law which must prevail. And the Constitution seems to state quite clearly that until the president holds office, he enjoys immunity and no case can be initiated against him. It is this clause that the prime minister says he is determined to uphold at all costs.
Certainly, it is vital that the Constitution — and all that it states — with regard to the letter be followed if we are to avoid a state of anarchy. We are already venturing far too close to such a situation. The question of immunity is one that draws different comments from either side. The prime minister, however, is determined to go by the document which determines the supreme law of the country and it is difficult to fault him for this. To a large extent, what happens next depends on the majority, or the lack of it — demonstrated by the Court, the government and its legal advisers — as we face the unpleasant prospects of yet another prime minister landing up in jail and further tensions evolving between key institutions.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2012.
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