Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has responded to the scandals of corruption attached to himself and his family by taking his cabinet into confidence about the details of the allegation (now before the Supreme Court) that his son, Ali Musa Gilani (who was recently elected to the National Assembly in a by-election) had caused a narcotics drug quota to be awarded to two companies of Multan in violation of government rules and regulations. The cabinet has accepted the prime minister’s defence and has decided to stand by him. Thus, yet another case of corruption has been politicised and the plea taken is that of ‘victimisation’. The public has seen a lot of such cases in the recent past. The other ongoing case before the country’s apex court involving the prime minister is on the charge of contempt. The Court of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is popular with the media and most Pakistanis because it has broken with the past practice when courts were supine in front of the executive and the military. This activism has focused on governance and found the government erring on many counts — and no one can really fault the Court on that score. Unfortunately, the opposition has used this suo motu-based activism to push forward their own agenda of toppling the government before its term in office is up. The world over, critics often ask a head of the government to resign because a member of his cabinet has been found involved directly or indirectly in corruption.
In this case, however, the charges, if an affidavit filed by a senior official of the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) is to be believed, the principal secretary of the prime minister allegedly told the ANF that it should not probe the prime minister’s son because that could cause “chaos” and “upheaval” and because civil-military relations were on the mend (the ANF is headed by a serving army officer). The bureaucrat has now denied saying any such thing. The media, by and large, has been very active in unearthing scandals; and the details that have been made public have convinced most people that the present government is tainted as far as corruption is concerned, notwithstanding the fact that many of the problems it has faced may have been inherited. All over the world, the judiciary faces problems of implementation when it comes to dealing with the accountability of the executive. The judges interpret the law and hold the government to its own rules of the game under the Constitution, but getting their orders obeyed by the ‘erring’ party is always problematic. The dilemma faced by the Supreme Court today arises out of the crisis of confidence between the PPP government and the military on the one hand, and the PPP government and a vengeful opposition comprising the PML-N and others, and at times reinforced by those sitting inside the PPP coalition, on the other. The PPP understands the implications of this and has exploited it by playing the so-called ‘Sindh card’ by accusing the military — and the Court — of victimising a Pakistan-wide party led by a non-Punjabi family.
Mr Gilani has pleaded not guilty to his cabinet saying that the ephedrine drug scandal was investigated by a competent authority which found the accused innocent. The statement emerging from the cabinet says that “Ephedrine, the drug in question, is to be dealt with under the Drug Act, 1976 and not under Control of Narcotics Substance Act, 1977 because it is a locally-manufactured, controlled chemical, distributed yearly by the Ministry of Health under Drug Act 1976”. Whatever may be the truth in the latest case, the final verdict on it will come from the Supreme Court; and Mr Gilani is already facing charges of defying the orders of the honourable judges in other cases. It is unfortunate that justice in Pakistan has become politicised — thanks to the politicians, rather than the Court— and Mr Gilani may prefer to go out as a martyr rather than as an upright citizen armed with the right to defend himself.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2012.
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