Like a typical either/or dilemma there are two clearly conflicting interpretations of the Supreme Court decision announced Thursday. The diehard opponents of the government firmly believe that after the conviction of Yousaf Raza Gilani, howsoever symbolic it may sound, stands disqualified to continue as the Prime Minister of Pakistan with immediate effect.
Gilani’s legal eagles aver otherwise. Passionately quoting from the concluding lines of the short order of Thursday, they force you to fathom that their client had been convicted under Article 5 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003. The court had not invoked article 63(g) that disqualifies a sitting member of the National Assembly.
Disregarding the legalistic hair-splitting, Nawaz Sharif did not take long to appear on a private television to pronounce that after the Supreme Court decision of Thursday, Gilani had lost all moral grounds to continue as the Prime Minister. He must resign and help in creating consensus for installation of an interim prime minister who should hold fresh election.
Being a two-time prime minister of this country, Nawaz Sharif should instinctively know that morality hardly counts in power politics and Gilani represents a thick-skinned lot anyway. He will not resign voluntarily. Someone has to force him to do so. So, how to go about it? Let me humbly suggest a possible way out. Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N has more than 90 members sitting in this assembly. They should instantly ask the Speaker National Assembly, via a soundly drafted reference that after Thursday’s decision Gilani had become a ‘stranger’ to their august house. The process to de-seat him must be initiated. Madame Speaker cannot take more than 30 days to forward their reference to the Election Commission. If she doesn’t act the matter would automatically move under EC’s jurisdiction.
Until my writing this column, the PML-N members did not seem too keen to execute the obviously available option for getting Gilani out. They remained busy in a brainstorming session until 6:35. As if after getting tired of waiting, Dr Mirza called the house in order and Farooq Naek took the floor to deliver a boring lecture on the history of Benazir Bhutto’s prosecution in Switzerland, thanks to the diligence of Nawaz Sharif’s accountability czar in 1997.
My very reliable sources claimed that the PML-N would still prefer to make noises on moral grounds only. For the moment, all their energies are viciously focused on a group of 10-plus legislators of the PPP. With the promise of fielding them on the PML-N ticket during the next election, these legislators are being beseeched to come out into the open and demand Gilani to resign. Although continuing to play footsie with the PML-N, the same legislators remain reluctant. They do not want to appear as if ditching their party in the lurch like greedy opportunists.
The PML-N legislators also want that before putting up a full-throated demand for the resignation of Gilani, last-minute efforts should also be made to take the PML-Q on board. Many of Chaudhry’s loyalists are willing to jump ship, but Pervez Elahi remains the trouble. Also required is some sort of patch-up with the MQM that should eventually lead to establishment of some working understanding between the loyalists of Altaf Bhai and Nawaz Sharif. The MQM will not make the first move; Nawaz Sharif has to take the initiative by discarding the bitterness that he had been accumulating against the ‘representative voice of Urban Sindh’ for so many years. No wonder, to find out what to do next, the PML will have a broad-based brainstorming session on April 30, without realizing that even one single day decisively counts in politics when hit by the flux.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2012.