We have walked a distance and quickly come right back to the starting point. Just like his predecessor, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has been issued a contempt of court notice for failing to write the letter to Swiss authorities that would reopen corruption cases against the president of the country. The somewhat more conciliatory attitude adopted by the Court during its last hearing in the matter had vanished on August 8, with the five-member bench hearing the matter saying it saw no reason why the present prime minister should be treated in a manner any different than former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani who, of course, was disqualified over the same NRO issue.
The situation continues to become an increasingly sticky one. The Supreme Court turned down a request from the Attorney General that the next hearing be delayed till September. August 27 has been set as the date when the prime minister will need to offer an answer to the show-cause notice served to him. He does not really have much time. The PPP, meanwhile, has already decided that it will not be writing the letter; its argument has consistently been that the president enjoys immunity under the Constitution and cannot be tried for corruption. The Court differs on this key issue of immunity.
The legal arguments are potentially endless; lawyers and other experts all hold their own views on the matter. But the fact is that this affair has consumed huge amounts of energy and time. It has acted to destabilise the country and left everything in a state of flux. This is, perhaps, all the more so given that talks of technocrats in the government and suggestions of early polls keep coming up. The uncertainty can only add to the problems we face. Most of all, in our still struggling democracy, we need a sense of stability and order as well as some sense of normalcy. The clash we now have right in the open between two key institutions is not at all reassuring. It is also unclear where a solution lies or what can be done to solve another approaching crisis, which threatens to badly shake the existing order.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2012.
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