The conviction of Prime Minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday remained a hot topic in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), with people discussing politics instead of the more widespread issue of sectarianism.
In offices, hotels, educational institutions and even tea stalls, people exchanged views on the possible fallout of the verdict. The majority view was that the premier’s conviction will trigger a new debate about the role of judiciary and the moral and legal responsibilities of the elected representatives.
However, with jammed cellular services and prolonged power outages in most of the areas in G-B, people could not view live updates of the court proceedings on television.
A political activist, Wazir Muzaffar, said that the premier’s contempt proceedings provided much-needed relief to the people of G-B, as for a while “they forgot about the sectarian menace that has pervaded society”.
“It was one of the biggest events in Pakistan’s political history and naturally people paid more attention to it than other regional issues,” remarked Ajaz Ali, who is a consultant for a non-governmental organisation.
A seven-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, found PM Gilani guilty of contempt of court for refusing to reopen graft cases against the president. However, the court only gave him a symbolic sentence of a few seconds’ detention in the courtroom.
G-B Chief Minister Mehdi Shah, who is also the regional president of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), ensured his presence in the federal capital a day before the court proceedings. However, on April 4, when sectarian violence erupted in Gligit, he had left for Garhi Khuda Bakhsh for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s 33rd death anniversary. More than 20 people were killed in G-B that day.
PPP Information Secretary for G-B, Rana Nazeem, reiterated that his party respected the judiciary and its decisions.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2012.