Sign of things to come

Published: April 26, 2012

The writer is a senior journalist and works for DawnNews

The Supreme Court has spoken and the government does not like what it has heard. That is obvious and to be expected. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has been found guilty of the rather serious charge of wilfully flouting the orders of the Court, which the honourable judges have found to be a substantial offence, one that brings into disrepute the dignity and the esteem of the Court.

Regardless of the myriad interpretations of the law and the finer points of the Constitution that are being used to justify the prime minister’s continuation in office, the fact remains that he is now a convict. No amount of influence-peddling and chest-thumping will change this rather sad fact. Besides tainting his name, and providing grounds for putting a full stop to his active political career, the conviction has raised question marks about Mr Gilani’s ability to conduct himself as the chief executive and the leader of the house.

The Court had the option of awarding the prime minister maximum punishment, but that itself would have only provided more fire to the hyper critics of the judiciary and reinforced their opinion that it  has a clear bias against the PPP. Instead, the minimum sentence was chosen — till the rising of the Court — even though the substance of the verdict has the same effect as a more stringent punishment would have highlighted.

That is smart handling of a delicate issue. However, a politically divided environment has not registered this nuanced side of the verdict. As the news of the prime minister’s conviction was beamed, prearranged protest meetings were held in already decided pockets. Effigies of the judges were burnt in Multan. In Sindh, the reaction was similar.

This is a sign of things to come. The PPP has made up its mind that it will take the battle with the judiciary to the next level, regardless of the consequences. The tradition of delaying implementation of judicial verdicts or forever finding ways to wriggle out of the responsibility of preserving the letter and spirit of these decisions now looks set to be pursued directly by the prime minister himself under the over-arching umbrella of support provided by President Asif Ali Zardari.

There is little reason to be hopeful that in the coming days the judiciary’s esteem will be factored in the political assessments of the performance and conduct of the judges. The persons and the office of the judges will be put through the shredder in a tragic re-enactment of the days of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf when pouring scorn on the judges and foul mouthing them in public was the centrepiece of a deliberate strategy.

This will further fracture an already shaken system, whose one pillar, the executive, is now pitted against the other, the judiciary. For the opposition, primarily the PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, this means decision time. Both these parties have promised, but delayed, direct action against the government for quite some time. For one reason or the other, they have trundled along with a government that they have criticised bitterly but have not really taken up arms against. It would be difficult to postpone that action anymore, especially if the government continues on the path of wilful defiance and deliberate ridicule of the judges that they think are manifestly prejudiced against them.

That could mean the final showdown: with elections just around the corner and parties looking for causes to champion, this might turn out to be a battle that may be far more consequential than most of us are able to appreciate at the moment. Of course, this shaken system of ours does not have to go through these new convulsions if the government gulps down this bitter pill of the prime minister’s conviction and winds down from the path of a head-on collision. There is nothing indispensable about the prime minister, especially if the party in power and its allies still command the numbers in the house to get another man in. However, that is the rational course of action, which has been the path least taken by those at the helm of affairs.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2012.

Reader Comments (45)

  • American
    Apr 26, 2012 - 11:38PM

    a good read and fair article

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  • Ejaaz
    Apr 26, 2012 - 11:43PM

    This is what you get when you accept PCO judges who pardon themselves with not even 30 seconds of punishment.

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  • Saad Anwar
    Apr 26, 2012 - 11:48PM

    The way the judiciary has been maligned and ridiculed in the media is disappointing.Whenever they’ve tried to punish people for corruption,the media has gone on the offensive against the judiciary. The people who are convicts are being presented to us as our heroes.
    They themself have no shame over what they’ve done but instead are busy in presenting themselves as masoom,bholay bhalay victim. Playing with the emotions of people to gain seats and power is an old tactic which is being employed once again. The media’s portrayal of the govt. as the victim has put immense pressure on the judiciary to not give a proper,strict sentence.

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  • Zafar Sadiq
    Apr 26, 2012 - 11:53PM

    The playing of race card has worked once again.To divert attention away from financial corruption the language of racial and ethnic hatred is used to inflame the emotions of people so they forget what the real issue was.Dividing people on racial lines to gain their sympathy and votes is damaging pakistan.

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  • Danish Soomro
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:01AM

    PPP has got the greatest card of all. They’ve combined the Sindh,Shaheed and Saraiki card into one and are playing the Master card to win sympathies for themselves. This Master card will win them more seats and it can be used to deflect any sort of criticism from anyone.

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  • Haris
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:06AM

    @Zafar Sadiq: What is wrong in it if PPP want to end the Punjabi Rule in Pakistan.?? PPP is the voice of the marginalized and they are persecuted because they are non Punjabis mostly and we cannot expect anything from People of Takht e Lahore and from Islamabad. PPP is the real power of the marginalized people in Pakistan and now we have the power and you can envy.

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  • Ahmed HM
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:31AM

    Time to play the Sindh card … :)

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  • Falcon
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:32AM

    I think you have pretty much summed up the expected sequence of events. PPP is ready for self-inflicted martyrdom. I still can’t stop wondering how stupid we were to have elected the present govt. into office.

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  • Mirza
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:32AM

    “judges have found to be a substantial offence, one that brings into disrepute the dignity and the esteem of the Court”

    When are these judges going to find an offence attaking the SC while in session and throwing them with their families enmass in detention? Why the judges only act against an elected progressive govt and never against the usurpers who they never failed to endorse? Zardari and PPP were elected despite all these unproven corruption charges by a wide majority of people. Just like hanging ZAB, the generals and SC has been rejected by the people. Once again in the next elections the ruling coalition would win with bigger majority.

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  • k. Salim Jahangir
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:37AM

    Talat……..a balanced piece as expected of you.But there is a song in the air………~>Kissy ki zulf mai’n hoti tou husan kehlati ~>Ye teergi jo meray noma-e-ammal mai’n hai.

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  • S. Khan
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:43AM

    “Both these parties have promised, but delayed, direct action against the government for quite some time. ” If they dont move their pretty selves now, they can never!

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  • faraz
    Apr 27, 2012 - 1:07AM

    Weren’t judges ridiculed when they were put under house arrest in 2007 emergency?

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  • Zohaib Ahmad
    Apr 27, 2012 - 1:17AM

    @Haris:

    We’ve had a non-punjabi president holding all power in the country for the last four years,before that it was a military leader from sindh for over 8 years who held power.Punjab province has been deliberately sidelined from power for well over a decade now.

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  • Tariq khan
    Apr 27, 2012 - 1:34AM

    @Haris:

    Sick,racist mentality and a sever victimhood complex will fool no one.Playing the victim role again and again will not fool the voters. Racist hate and bigotry against other ethnicities is damaging and weakening pakistan itself.

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  • Seema
    Apr 27, 2012 - 3:16AM

    Mirza & Haris totally agree with you.

    Talat you have totally forgotten to mention that your honorable, so called free and fair judiciary, completely ignored what constitution say about immunity of President, just like dictators, these judges, through judicial activism, imposing their own interpretation of constitution. Being a seasoned journalist you should show some impartiality in your opinion.

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  • Maryam
    Apr 27, 2012 - 3:19AM

    The court has given its verdict. The media has given its verdict. both have punished PPP. Now the people has also given its verdict today in Multan. A lower middle class PPP candidate Usman Bhatti Won his seat from the grandson of a former Governor PML(N) & the seat was previously with PML(N). So the people are with PPP. Please all anchors go to bed and just sleep will, tomorow again they have to sit in front of cameras and will be claiming that they are ‘representative of the poeple’.

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  • Cheema
    Apr 27, 2012 - 6:05AM

    The judiciary’s Achilles heel has been and will continue to be the strong perception of partiality towards PMLn. Unless and until they use the sword indiscriminately against the other thieves who have looted this country mercilessly in the garb of holier than thou image, we are doomed.
    Just have to read the latest piece from AQ khan on the level of theft by so called moral gang.
    But alas this GT road mentality (zia inspired hypocrisy) is so prevalent in media that no one will call spade a spade.

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  • Fool's Paradise
    Apr 27, 2012 - 6:14AM

    @Haris:
    Yes PPP is the party for the marginalized. Its sole aim is to make more people beggars and looters. You have had 4 years with the country. Name one achievement of your rule. Bloody incompetent thiefs.

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  • Apr 27, 2012 - 6:30AM

    @Seema imposing their own interpretation of constitution

    That is their job isn’t it? It’s the Supreme Court’s job to interpret the Constitution. Not you, me, the President, the PM (peon), Law Minister, Lawyer/Attorney, not anyone, but the Honourable Judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Why? Because it’s in the Constitution itself!Recommend

  • Imran Ahsan Mirza
    Apr 27, 2012 - 6:38AM

    Talat, well written. The current government has set a bad example for the future governments, giving them precedence of avoiding implementation of court decisions for one excuse or another. They have continued to blame hidden conspiracies for their upcoming demise and continue to put up excuses against Musharraf for their own failures, for God sake he has left the scene for nearly five years now. Please note that Mr Zardari becoming President by itself was a bad precedence for future governments, a political leader without resigning his political office assumed the highest office. This can be detrimental to the Federalism one day. The Presidency and Senate should be both elected.

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  • Adeel Syed
    Apr 27, 2012 - 6:54AM

    @Maryam:
    We will see who the people are with when the elections come. There will be no trace of PPP. Mark my words!

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  • Shahzad
    Apr 27, 2012 - 7:12AM

    Equanimity is required in political and judicial leadership. There were times during these proceedings that the various players on the stage president, prime minister, members of the bar gave a hint that they may have the composure emanating from equanimity but eventually everyone got blown away by their narrow personal motives it seems.

    In a democratic state politicians can only operate where there is a fair and free judiciary to protect the democratic system where can we get the equanimity in politicians to deal with this reality.

    Also respectfully the judiciary at the top needs equanimity , as a punjabi poet doing rounds on you tube entitled “Kammi America day” puts it to much suo motto from kalay koto. Interfering in the price of sugar, in privatisation of economic entities. Passing judgements which are not enforceable and thereby bringing themselves into disrepute .

    Well fun and games for the media let it begin till equanimity is found.

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  • Apr 27, 2012 - 8:35AM

    An excellent and balanced piece of writing.

    Well done and thumbs up

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  • MNC
    Apr 27, 2012 - 9:43AM

    Talat Hussain, why dont you get a life? I mean seriously….

    You can go on and on rattling about our “azaad adlia” and the deft manner in which they have handled this case and etc etc?(yawning) but why CAN YOU, talat hussain, ask and answer these questions to yourself….

    a) Why did the court have to jump on the GHQ bandwagon to “assert” itself? The memo case clearly shows it.

    b) Would the SC find Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani guilty too of their misdeeds?

    c) What of the missing persons? Can the SC ask the intelligence cheifs to appear in the court of law?

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  • Shahid Kinnare
    Apr 27, 2012 - 9:57AM

    In US people who are punish for contempt of Court are consider hero even Judges appreciated the principle stand of that person. What a tragedy that in Pakistan educated people do not understand this simple concept.

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  • Ammar
    Apr 27, 2012 - 11:56AM

    Talat, you seem to be very upset with the current developments. But it’s obvious, when someone uses courts as a political playground and judges, generals, and their favorite journalists try to be political actors and make huge claims day in day out about throwing the PPP from power echelons (without understanding that its true power lie with the people) and push them to the wall, then you should not be disturbed by such happenings. Fairness and impartiality are the ingredients, your writings need. You haven’t learnt a thing from the sorry episode of your interview with Sushma a few years ago. She handled you well, remember? But it is never late, if only one wants to learn. Grow up sir!

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  • Logic Europe
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:09PM

    The judiciary should not be subservient to Nawaz Shareef as is the truth and perception

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  • badshah
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:53PM

    This guy has no fear of God. It’s judiciary which has picked up fight with the PPP, man! Don’t you know! He seems to have been totally oblivious of history!

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  • asad
    Apr 27, 2012 - 2:18PM

    This is a fake battle, much like the fake “judiciary”.

    Like everything else in Pakistan, the courts too are fake, a sham, and for lip service only.

    For all practical purposes, the Judiciary does not exist, because it does not actually serve justice. What it actually does is pretend, at the whim and caprice of a “chief justice” who uses it to assuage his ego for frivolous issues.

    Hence we see the 30 second “punishment” for Gilani, which has made a mockery of judiciary around the world.

    Mr. Talat Hussain, it would have been more appropriate for a journalist of your calibre to have highlighted this sham as a priority.

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  • Umer
    Apr 27, 2012 - 2:59PM

    But wait, people of Multan have given votes to PPP on their own without any card being played but establishment cronies will have us think otherwise.

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  • Umer
    Apr 27, 2012 - 3:10PM

    @Zohaib Ahmad:

    We’ve had a non-punjabi president
    holding all power in the country for
    the last four years

    He has no powers. President is just a figure head. Also in democracy things work with collaboration. It’s not a dictatorship like that of Punjabi Zia.

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  • Ammar
    Apr 27, 2012 - 3:51PM

    @Adeel Syed:

    Yes we’ll see. We’ll see who parishs, PPP or Anti-PPP.

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  • Ammar
    Apr 27, 2012 - 3:58PM

    @Antebellum:

    Yes it is SC job to endorse military coups and hang elected PM. So much for Aazad Adlia Huh!

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  • MNC
    Apr 27, 2012 - 4:50PM

    @Maryam:

    Thank God there is someone who is ready to articulate the view of the “other” side. Perhaps, Zardari was right to call them “siyasi adakaar” You’d see them unleashing their bias against the government but like you said, the people have given their verdict and that verdict stands with, like it or not, the current government.

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  • Falcon
    Apr 27, 2012 - 5:50PM

    Based on the comments on this article, I have come to conclude that PPP jiyalas are a hopeless case…May God have mercy on them and us all (who are bearing the brunt of this political loyalty)

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  • Imran
    Apr 27, 2012 - 6:09PM

    @Adeel Syed:
    We will see who the people are with when the elections come. There will be no trace of PPP. Mark my words!

    If wishes were horses! Zia and Musharraf thought precisely the same. Look where they are and where is PPP.

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  • straightforward
    Apr 27, 2012 - 7:06PM

    Talat is trying hard for anarchy by persuading Nawaz and Imran to bring people to streets for a totally biased judiciary against present govt. Independent analysis of Judiciary since creation of Pakistan will most probably reveal that it is superior judiciary which was responsible of much of the damage to this country, interns of financial loss to the country current coalition of brother justices (look at the unanimous decisions of benches, late night emergencies gatherings on rumors and passing instant orders) will stand at top. Besides terrorism politically instability created by every now and then by the present judiciary can be the cause of capital flight from country and hinder in new investment. Is not not the judiciary ridiculing itself? To get the due respect judiciary would have to show impartiality, if punishment to Nawaz after 10 years can be set a side, judiciary should have shown restrain as president enjoys immunity. If they do not like current person as president, he should have been stopped at right time (before election). Recommend

  • Waseem
    Apr 27, 2012 - 7:33PM

    How unfair . This is the judiciary which is ridiculing the democratically elected Prime Minister and and the Legislature. Sovereignty lies in people of Pakistan the they exercise the power through their chosen representatives. This is constitution. This is democracy. Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Apr 27, 2012 - 9:29PM

    @Waseem:
    If democracy means unabated corruption, having looters as ministers, giving your children and relatives key posts, mind boggling inflation, zero security, complete lack of soveriegnity and widespread poverty and iliteracy than we don’t want democracy. We will be happy with military rule.

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  • Noise
    Apr 27, 2012 - 10:21PM

    No one likes this petty judicial activism. No one likes their az-khud notices. The judiciary of Pakistan has a tainted reputation, they’re played a negative role in this country’s history and the current judicial setup is notorious for always letting captured terrorists walk free. No one likes it. And you call for Imran and Nawaz to fight for the judiciary? Nawaz had the courts invaded by his thugs and had judges manhandled the last time he was in power with his “heavy mandate”, have you all forgotten? If Imran or Nawaz were in power with comfortable majorities and if the courts were playing their hand at politics against them like how they’re attacking the PPP right now both Imran and Nawaz would have done the same thing.

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  • WakeUp
    Apr 27, 2012 - 11:23PM

    Mirza, Haris and Seema

    Why you forget that it was this CJ who said NO to a dictator? It was because of him that the so called democracy came to this country? I cant forget how strongly we protested in favor of CJ and and against Musharaf. This actually weaken Musharaf and this country was cursed with PPP.

    Maryam

    Why you people consider 10% as the total general public. Get your statistic right. The registered votes in that multan constituency were 188,000. The total votes cost was only 40,000 (21%). The PPP candidate won only by 300 votes, which makes it only 10% of the total registered votes. So only 10% were in PPP favor (including the purchase and the use of entire govt machinary). 79% voters didnt costed votes which is tantamount to bycotting the election and the status quo parties. Let the general elections come and you will real situation. Dont come up with wrong statistics.

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  • Umer
    Apr 28, 2012 - 12:14AM

    @WakeUp:

    Why you forget that it was this CJ who
    said NO to a dictator?

    He said No to his job loss nothing else.

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  • straightforward
    Apr 28, 2012 - 3:16PM

    As bhuttos’ suffered most at the hands of establishment and judiciary, Bilawal is right in saying once a pco judge is always a pco judge. It would have been morally and ethically a great example if cut off time for judgement on pco judges should have started from Chief Justice himself, secondly it would have saved nation from alot of pains over the last few years. Sure, chief justice’s no has great contribution in restoration of democracy but a lot of credit goes to late benaznir bhutto in outing musharif and restoration of judiciary. Movement alone could not have musharif out of presidency. Nawaz did try to come back with court’s permission and you all know the result. Media and movement (PPP was big part of it) did their best but can not achieve the goal. president zardari’s slogan of Pakistan Khapay at a very delicate situation makes me forgive him if his corruption stories prove to be real. previously i had no choice but to vote for nawaz, this time i thought for imran but now i feel PPP still has strength to stand against odds and deserve my vote. I feel that PPP is a Pakistan’s asset, if PTI does not prove to be another asset and PPP gets ruined at the hands of judiciary and establishment that will be the biggest blow to the country.

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  • Logic Europe
    Apr 28, 2012 - 4:00PM

    umer@ we must accept that judges are as honest and as corrupt as the genral poulation
    JUST TRY TO FIND AN HOENST judge In Pakistan and let me know

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  • observer
    Apr 29, 2012 - 3:19PM

    For umpteenth time one has to reiterate this.

    The issue is NOT writing of the letter. The issue IS Presidential Immunity. If the SC is absolutely sure let them strike down Article 248(2) of the constitution. The Article reads
    No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Governor in any court during his term of office.

    Writing the letter to the Swiss Authorities amounts to ‘institution’ or at the least ‘continuation’ of ‘criminal proceedings’.

    Koi Shaq.

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