The federal government has drawn up battle lines over the potential disqualification of recently-convicted Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
Taking exception to a letter written by the Supreme Court’s assistant registrar to the National Assembly speaker – in which the speaker was purportedly directed to take action against Gilani in light of the SC verdict – the government has decided to move a privilege motion against the court official.
In a press conference held on Saturday by Law Minister Farooq H Naek, who was accompanied by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, the government also seemed to entice the SC, saying that if the court wanted to directly disqualify the prime minister, it should just say so – and the government would comply with the order.
Naek maintained that the SC had, in fact, not disqualified the prime minister.
In any case, Naek said that Gilani was still the prime minister‚ a member of the assembly and the cabinet would be functioning constitutionally till Fehmida Mirza, the NA speaker, would decide his fate. “Yousaf Raza Gilani is still very much the prime minister and heading a functional cabinet, but if the Supreme Court decides to disqualify him then the government is ready to comply with all court orders,” asserted Naek.
Naek termed the letter written to National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza “illegal.” He said that the letter from the assistant registrar directing Mirza to take action against the premier was a blatant “violation” of the law. Naek added that the official was not authorised to issue directions to the speaker.
“We will bring a privilege motion against the Supreme Court’s assistant registrar as the letter is illegal and a clear violation of the rules and procedures. He has directed the speaker to take action at the earliest which we believe is an offence to parliament,” Naek stated. He went on to say that the “parliament’s privilege has been disparaged by the letter directing the speaker to take action in the prime minister’s contempt case.”
The law minister also clarified that any appeal against the SC’s decision could only be filed after a detailed order is issued. He said that the SC did not disqualify the premier and people should not rush in passing judgments. “The trial ends after the appeal is heard. What is the rush all about,” Naek asked.
He went on to add that “in similar cases, the court always gives a detailed order, so the accused can read it and file an appeal against it. But the Supreme Court has yet to give the detailed order in this case. Neither had it given a copy of the order to the prime minister.”
Commenting on Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif’s call for Gilani to step down, Naek said he respected the former prime minister, but “he is not getting the right advice.”
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira added his thoughts on the whole saga and said that Prime Minister Gilani had always respected the courts, and would continue to do so in the future as well. He said that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had always faced all cases against it in the courts and never tried to bend the rule of law. “Gilani was a true man who reinforced the Parliament like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto did,” Kaira asserted. The information minister also regretted what he called the twisting of facts of the court’s orders by the PML-N.
He reiterated that long marches and protests against the government were regrettable, but the PPP would prefer to adopt a way towards reconciliation and peace as confrontations between parties only led to damaging democracy in the past and would do so in the future too.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2012.