The Pakistan Peoples Party is believed to have crafted a plan to outfox any move designed to unseat Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani following his conviction by the Supreme Court in a contempt case.
Following the apex court’s detailed verdict, the party has resolved that premier Gilani does not merit disqualification, and has devised a plan to prolong the issue.
According to the PPP legal team, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Fehmida Mirza – on whom the fate of the prime minister depends – will reject the prime minister’s disqualification within a time period of 30 days, entitled under article 63 (2) of the Constitution.
According to the article, the speaker can decide whether or not the premier will be disqualified once a reference in this regard is filed. If the speaker chooses to remain silent, the issue would automatically go to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
However, Dr Mirza has been asked to declare her decision within 30 days without waiting for a reference from anyone, in case someone moves the Supreme Court against the premier or in case the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) directly approaches the ECP.
Sources in the PPP said that the party did not want to give an opportunity to the ECP to take action; thus, by May 25, the NA speaker will take a decision on the premier’s future and may absolve him from disqualification.
Sources have also disclosed that the PPP will file an appeal in the apex court against the verdict in the last week of the 30-day deadline.
Naek in Senate
The premier’s disqualification was also brought up in the Senate on Thursday, with Law Minister Farooq Naek saying the issue would not go further if the speaker National Assembly deemed it pointless.
“The Election Commission cannot take up the issue of the prime minister’s disqualification until the National Assembly Speaker observes that a question of disqualification arises,” Naek said.
The minister said that the decision of the ECP, whatever it may be, would be implemented and honoured.
Meanwhile, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said that the PML-N will file a reference against the premier in the ECP in the coming week. He said that a few clauses including 63(1)g does not authorise the NA speaker to deliver a judgment on court rulings.
Supreme Court Advocate AK Dogar said that he would file a petition in the apex court today (Friday), seeking the immediate disqualification of Gilani as the prime minister.
Another petitioner, Azhar Siddique, also plans to file a petition, pleading the apex court to direct the ECP to de-notify the premier from his office.
PPP’s delaying strategy
According to sources, the PPP feels that the Supreme Court will fail to form an eight-member bench to hear the appeal, as it lacks one judge.
Therefore, they added, till the formation of the bench, the status of an appeal will remain pending and in the meantime the speaker may reject the reference against the prime minister.
Neglected members call for resignation
As an overwhelming majority of the PPP rallies behind Prime Minister Gilani after his conviction, some neglected souls in the ruling group have come up with a different piece of advice for him: take the high moral ground and resign immediately.
According to them, such a move will help the premier as well as the party regain lost credibility ahead of the general elections.
The advice was given by some old guards of the PPP whose dissident voices had hardly been heard since President Asif Ali Zardari took the reins of the party after the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
More importantly, according to some insiders, Senator Raza Rabbani had also cautioned the leadership against touching ‘extremes’ in the ongoing battle with the judiciary after the verdict.
Talking to The Express Tribune, both Zafar Ali Shah and Nawab Yousaf Talpur said they believed the prime minister should resign on moral grounds.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ZIA KHAN IN ISLAMABAD
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2012.