It seems as though politics in Pakistan has a natural attachment to controversy and realising this it, too, has anchored itself upon the national stage in which we function. We now see the swirling of a new storm, in which National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza has declined to send a reference against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The issue, as is well established, arose following the conviction, on April 26, of the prime minister on contempt charges, leading to opinions being voiced that he stood disqualified. The views of other legal experts varied markedly, as is in fact inevitable in a situation where justice becomes so closely linked to politics and doubts creep in over institutional jurisdiction. Just the fact that a whole host of legal experts have been unable to sort out the matter is evidence of the degree of confusion that exists over it.
With matters left up to the Speaker, on the basis that she alone could, under the law of the land decide the fate of the prime minister, Dr Mirza made her stance quite clear. She held that there were no grounds under Article 63 of the Constitution for Mr Gilani to be removed from his seat in the National Assembly and that she would, as such, not be passing the matter to the ECP. Dr Mirza also objected to the Supreme Court’s decision to pass on the matter to her through a deputy registrar, stating that this seemed to be in bad taste. While this may seem petty, dignity and mutual respect are vital in handling issues of national importance between the various institutions.
What we have seen unfold before us is a question of ranking, or supremacy between institutions. The prime minister and his team, indeed from the start of his tenure in 2008, have emphasised the need for parliament’s supremacy. Certainly, the institutions need to work within the framework of the Constitution. Perhaps, the events we have witnessed in the recent months can at least help establish just what the lines of division are and why it is crucial to prevent intrusion into one another’s territory, so that the judiciary may stand beyond politics.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2012.
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