Why the PM must go

Published: May 28, 2012

The writer is professor of political science at LUMS

On issues like corruption, incompetence, flagrant violation of rules, defiance of the Supreme Court and standing firm against a contempt of court conviction, the polity of Pakistan is divided between those who are in support of the Gilani government and those who are against it. One specific trait of our social and political culture is partisanship — a cleric, a feudal lord, a tribal chief or a caste leader is never wrong, he is always right. Similarly, we see some prominent lawyers and commentators in the media, linked through a system of visible and invisible patronage of the state, waxing eloquent to prove that the prime minister is right and that the Supreme Court is overstepping its mandate. On the other hand, opponents of the regime, mainly the PML-N and the PTI stridently argue that he is a convict and he doesn’t have any legal standing anymore to continue as prime minister.

Before I explain why Gilani must go, I would like to concur with two arguments presented by his supporters. Firstly and politically, I think it was not possible for the prime minister to write a letter to the Swiss courts, whatever the merits of the case may be. President Asif Ali Zardari handpicked him purely on the same grounds that his predecessor appointed prime ministers, that is, being political lightweights. There was an additional quality that President Zardari was looking for and this was absolute loyalty towards him. Mr Gilani has proved his loyalty, honouring the time-honoured code of the feudal world — personal commitments are stronger than matters of public interest or law.

True, the prime minister is now a convicted person but in my view, he may continue to stay in the job until there is a decision on his appeal against the conviction. We have heard that he is not planning to appeal but who knows if the government may yet change its mind on that? Even his opponents, who want to see him return to Multan immediately, don’t present any valid argument against his right of appeal. They talk about moral legitimacy which, in an immoral political world of ours doesn’t carry any weight. If morality — that which is considered public conduct according to the accepted social norms of honour, decency, fair play and merit — were the value to judge our leaders; we may not find any in this part of the world, or elsewhere for that matter.

Morality is a good stick to beat opponents up with but a poor judge of the conduct of power-oriented politics. Politics is, therefore, governed by law alone. There is another source to judge politics, the opinion and support — or lack thereof — of the general population. Sadly, our tradition of rule of law remains weak and public opinion, if judged by electoral results, is polarised along a partisan party system based on strong social networks. Having said this, I believe Mr Gilani must go home.

First, never in our history have we seen such an incompetent government and perhaps, never will we see such a disastrous composition of actors again. There are only a handful of sane voices in his cabinet, the rest being incompetent and unable to run their ministries efficiently and for the greater public good. Second, Pakistan has done better under other regimes and could do better in terms of development, resource generation and governance. Also, the prime minister’s reputation is not all that clean, not least because of the serious allegations of favouritism and nepotism in the so-called ephedrine scandal allegedly involving one of his sons.

Finally, with a heavy burden of perceived corruption, poor governance and now standing in the middle of a political controversy, his carrying on in office may cost the PPP dearly. He is a political liability and the sooner he is sent packing the better off the PPP will be, as well as the rest of the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Mirza
    May 29, 2012 - 12:49AM

    The PM should resign on moral grounds after the PCO SC judges have convicted him. The PM should show morals to the PCO judges who have aided and abetted high treason. Where is fairness and sense of proportionality here? If there were no traps for HH and now his family, PM and now his family and the judges have taken oath on constitution and not PCO there could have been a case for morality. The parliament should clean the constitution of the remnants of dictatorship and the judiciary at the same time. Here is a clue for the parliament:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16144786

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  • Parvez
    May 29, 2012 - 1:11AM

    The voice of reason and common sense, brilliant.

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  • javaid iqbal
    May 29, 2012 - 1:21AM

    A corrupt, dishonest,wicked government led by Gillani and Zardari came into power in result of killing of Benazir, and foolishness of Pakistanis who are prey of heroism of Bhutto family. PPP people are so foolish that son of Bilawal will be leader of PPP. Pity on those people who do not think future of their own children but Bhutto’s. Does anyone tell our shia brothers to think before voting PPP that their votes give PPP a start as they always prefer to vote PPP dirty candidate as compared to some noble man just because Nusrat Bhutto or Asif Zardari belong to shia sector. Please think of ur children not Bhutto family and Bilawal is not Bhutto family but Zardari family. Did Asif Zardari not killed Murtaza? Yes ek Zardari sab pe bhari. Ask Fatima Bhutto.

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  • AmirB
    May 29, 2012 - 4:16AM

    But he won’t…he is a Jiyala and will go down fighting. His allegiance is to the King and not to the hapless people of this country. Politics is corrupted everywhere, even in the developed countries but to the degree it is corrupted in Pakistan is beyond imagination. We are always told it is an evolutionary process but it seems it is some kind of negative evolution. All these guys have been in politics since as long as we remember but seldom change. It is probably high time people vote with their conscience for a cleaner lot or else we will have many Gillanis in the offing, happy to replace this Gillani and continue the same rot.

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  • Muhammad
    May 29, 2012 - 4:21AM

    All rubbish

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  • Shakib
    May 29, 2012 - 4:59AM

    I too feel it’s necessary for the PPP to let Gilani go. He was always somewhat of a weak link and now with this conviction he has basically gifted the other parties a powerful election slogan.
    Benazir Bhutto’s 93-96 government had 6% GDP growth every year even with very harsh sanctions, it moved to create an energy surplus (so much so that Pakistan even exported electricity later), and brought Karachi’s law and order under control after Mr. Sharif’s disastrous military operation.
    Mr. Zardari has done the opposite. He has destroyed GDP growth, ignored the energy crisis, and presided over Karachi diving into mayhem.
    The PPP passed away with BB.Recommend

  • Shahzad
    May 29, 2012 - 6:15AM

    Regime change through judiciary could create another martyr. Can we allow this don’t forget a dictator looking for his own legitimacy did the NRO to usher in PM gillani and his band wagon.

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  • May 29, 2012 - 7:58AM

    How correct, precise and unavoidably your statement has scored a bulls-eye. He is a heavyweight, super liability on the morality, ethics and stability of this country. Nothing good has come out of him and Mr. Zardari is to blame, nobody else.

    He is the epitome of the corruption and ‘qurbani ka bakra’, which he has willingly become at the behest of Mr. Zardari. At least some good should have come out of the PPP in these near five years of being the recipients of the Benazir sympathy vote. An iota of some good should be visible.

    Salams

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  • agha sami
    May 29, 2012 - 11:36AM

    It is the PML-N not the PTI argues that Gillani is a convict and he doesn’t have any legal standing anymore to continue as prime minister. Imran Khan says Gillani is still constitutionally PM.

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  • Aman
    May 29, 2012 - 2:47PM

    It is really good to read it all.

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  • black and white
    May 29, 2012 - 4:33PM

    ……………..the moral values we talk about in poltics come only where we have developed them over time through scupulous adherence to them! if not, then the rot which has overtaken our society has it’s roots in a series of blunders or the acts of commission and ommission we have commited against the nation, the biggest of which are two in my opinion: one, not recognizing from the day one that we are an accmulation of various ethnic groups which could only be held together, if we built their states into the system; we did not do any thing till every body was dienchanted with the polity, including the urdu speaking people – which is rather strange! two, repeatedly flouting the will of the people by way of removing their elected leaders in a determined attempt as to say that we do not allow any thing like popular sovereignty in the country, come what may! these two blunders are now haunting the nation as big monsters and we do not have any road map to follow!

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  • Aizaz
    May 29, 2012 - 6:14PM

    In the words of a respected BBC news presenter, the Pakistani leadership is “A piece of old furniture” passed on from one “owner” to another.

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  • Mazen
    May 29, 2012 - 9:30PM

    A country where power is everything, reasoning and morality is a distant dream. If morality would have been the yardstick in this country then these inapt could not have been clung on to power for that long.Recommend

  • A Peshawary
    May 30, 2012 - 3:52PM

    @javaid iqbal:
    Wrong this governement and President came into power with the vote of PML(N). Please correct yourself.
    A Peshawary

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  • Farooq Bashir M.Phil(Pharmacy),MBA,LLB
    May 30, 2012 - 7:30PM

    A very good analysis by Dr.sb.

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