Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, after being unseated from parliament by the Supreme Court, leaves behind a murky record, even as his party elects his replacement. His term in office was tainted with bad governance and serious allegations of corruption, including against some of his close family members. The media took care of him before the Supreme Court did what was expected.
His cabinet fared no better. The first nominee of the party to succeed him was issued warrants for arrest in a case of graft in which Mr Gilani’s own son was involved. It was the shocking so-called ‘ephedrine case’ involving colossal sums. If the favourite nominee cannot stand, the next nominee, who handles the energy portfolio, is equally tarnished by allegations of taking money from the power producers. There are other ministers named in corruption cases who will probably get their comeuppance under a new government. One minister who looked after religion (sic!) is cooling his scared heels for having allegedly cheated pilgrims during Hajj.
Mr Gilani’s government was hounded by an ‘activist’ Supreme Court. It fell foul of the all-powerful military and was run precariously with the help of allies who were skittish at the best of times. Three big partners — the PPP, the ANP and the MQM — banded together because they feared an unforgiving, revengeful opposition. The MQM frequently parted ways — temporarily, of course — and repeatedly called upon the military to step in and establish order. The JUI-F’s Maulana Fazlur Rehman frequently wavered and was hardly a reliable ally for the PPP as the party could never really know which way he was leaning. It is for these reasons of internal uncertainty that the JUI-F and the PML-N have fielded their own candidate for prime ministership. And they are working on the weak spots in the majority that is still holding up, thanks mainly to the masterstroke of President Asif Ali Zardari in taking the PML-Q on board. The MQM can no longer put pressure for more concessions because of the big chunk of the PML-Q seats in parliament. The numbers were with the PPP but there was an outside chance that a new short-term PPP coalition may not come about.
The PPP got a rough deal from the military establishment, which would not give it the elbow room it needed to use foreign policy to resolve some of the problems that the Musharraf government had left behind. It also feared this kind of treatment from a ‘dismissed’ Supreme Court because it had gone activist with 6,000 suo motu cases.
Gilani restored the Supreme Court but took his time, meanwhile leaning on the alternative ‘Dogar Court’ by inducting more judges in it. It was a miscalculation that the PPP paid dearly for in the months that followed. It had reposed trust in the new ‘reconciliation’ with the PML-N, little realising that inside that party, old familiar passions of winning through ‘enmity’ rather than opposition were quivering with new life. One lakh lawyers of Pakistan, most of them from Punjab, merged with the PML-N’s ‘long march’, forcing Nawaz Sharif to realise that ‘friendly opposition’ didn’t suit Pakistan after all.
The establishment traditionally did not like the PPP. It had special rancour for President Zardari whose nimble pro-change politics went against the entrenched ideas it had imposed on all governments. And who can decide the circular argument of whether the Supreme Court was encroaching because it wanted to dictate or it was forced to intervene because the government was simply dysfunctional and had to be nudged out because of corruption? Given the fact that most governments in Pakistan end up being corrupt, one has to accept that some of what happened to the Gilani government was unfair.
In Pakistan, corruption is rampant like in most developing countries, but takes a special edge because of uncertainty. Mr Gilani may proudly claim that he almost completed his tenure, but the fact is that he has left behind the same kind of uncertainty that was there in the 1990s, when corruption took root under the ‘toppling’ Article 58. One can only hope that his replacement will fare better.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.
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