ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has issued an ordinance providing legal cover to all the actions taken by former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani between his conviction by the Supreme Court (SC) on April 26 and his actual removal on June 19.
The two-page ordinance promulgated on Sunday is intended to validate all decisions, appointments and international commitments made by Gilani since the day he was convicted for contempt. The draft of the presidential order said it could not be challenged legally, including through a petition in the SC.
“Any actions taken, orders passed, directions issued, advice given to president or appointments made by Yousaf Raza Gilani, shall be deemed to have been validly done,” the ordinance said.
“The provisions of the ordinance shall have, and shall be deemed to always have had, effect accordingly.”
It said that “no suit, prosecution or any other legal proceedings including a petition shall lie in any court or forum including the Supreme Court” against any order made or functions performed by the former premier.
Ordinances or presidential orders are meant to legislate urgent matters of public importance when either houses of parliament — the National Assembly (NA) and the Senate — are not in session. But the government is bound to seek what is known as a post facto approval of the ordinance from both the lower and the upper house within 120 days after they have been issued. In this way, the Constitution ensures these presidential orders become an act of the parliament and cannot be challenged or annulled by any court.
Several significant actions took place during the 55 days since Gilani’s conviction to his removal. Most important among them were the passage of the budget for the fiscal 2012-13 and the appointment of almost a dozen and a half judges in the higher judiciary, including the SC.
The SC short order on April 26 in the contempt of court case convicted Gilani but allowed ambiguity as to whether he was disqualified or not, leaving the government enough room to assume the former premier could still continue. Subsequently, NA speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza ruled that the conviction did not disqualify Gilani as a prime minister and he could still continue in office.
But the SC verdict on June 19 challenged the speaker’s ruling and declared Gilani disqualified from April 26, creating what some experts term a constitutional void.
Experts like renowned lawyer Athar Minallah say the presidential decree is a step in the right direction. He adds it is important to avoid ambiguity about the 55-day period when the country effectively had no government. “One positive thing we take from the verdict is that by doing so the government has demonstrated that it accepts the disqualification of Gilani in total and is not up for any confrontation,” said Minallah, who was spokesperson for Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry when former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf deposed him in 2007.
Like him, constitutional expert and former senator S M Zafar also maintains the ordinance is indispensable for approving important state functions under the de-facto doctrine. But he believes it is possible that the SC will explain the matter when it issues its detailed verdict for the case.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, 25th, 2012.
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