A dark omen for us all

Published: June 20, 2012
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The writer is the vice-president of the Pakistan Environmental Law Association and also is chairman of Lesco. The views expressed in this article are his own

The writer is the vice-president of the Pakistan Environmental Law Association and also is chairman of Lesco. The views expressed in this article are his own

Back in the Eighth Amendment days of yore, the Supreme Court of Pakistan was often called upon to determine whether a president or governor’s dismissal of the national or provincial assembly was constitutional. The Court didn’t swing the axe itself; it merely decided whether the blow was justified.

With June 19’s Supreme Court ruling that Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani ceased to hold office from April 26 on account of his conviction for contempt of court, the Court has, for the first time, dismissed a government.

I don’t know Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani. I have heard many stories about him and his family. But I don’t put stock in such stories, mostly because one can hardly trust what they read or hear nowadays. I do know him as the democratically-elected prime minister of Pakistan responsible for overseeing — some would say badly — the huge and impossibly complex job of governing this country. I also know that his removal, while legally justified, will disrupt many of the policies — whether I agree with them or not — his government was attempting to implement.

From an administrative standpoint, his removal means a change in momentum in the implementation of policy. It means uncertainty. Uncertainty is a cancer for any administration. These are entities that demand focus and direction, else the wheels spin but no one gets anywhere. On the other hand, there is the possibility that a new government may bring the focus and attention that our administration demands. Stranger things have been known to happen.

There are many reasons to dismiss an elected representative. But they must be good, as the will of the people is not something to be taken lightly. A representative may be corrupt, in which case they have lost the moral authority to represent their constituency. A prime minister may be removed on a vote of no confidence, which means he has lost the ability to govern parliament.

In the present case, the prime minister has been removed because — as some see it — he has refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s direction to write a letter that may initiate criminal proceedings against the sitting president. Some argue that a convicted person cannot be prime minister.

Some of the petitions and applications upon which the Supreme Court made its decision were filed after the prime minister’s conviction. They were ably argued by, amongst others, AK Dogar and Mohammad Azhar Siddique (who brought CP 40 of 2012 titled Mohammad Azhar Siddique vs Federation of Pakistan in his own name). Some will recall AK Dogar as the advocate who represents Hafiz Saeed before the Lahore High Court. And who can forget Azhar Siddique, the lawyer behind the petition seeking a ban on Facebook and founder of the alternative social media website Millat Facebook.

I congratulate all counsel for the swiftness with which they were able to obtain disposal of their petitions for their clients. By way of contrast, I know of a litigant before the Supreme Court who is claiming compensation for the state’s acquisition of his family’s property in 1948 and for which litigation commenced in 1988. To date, he has not received his compensation. Our Constitution directs that no person be deprived of their property without compensation. Mr Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his address to the Constituent Assembly in 1947, said that the first duty of the State was to protect the life and property of its citizens.

But by far the most troubling activity in the Court this past week was the brouhaha that sparked up between the attorney general of Pakistan and senior lawyers when the latter employed what can best be described as an ultra vires hand gesture during arguments. Such scenes have hitherto been the domain of the district courts and evening news reporting. Nevertheless, it is often said that violence begins when sane men lose their ability to reason. The fact that reason is lost on the courtroom floor is a dark omen for us all.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Hamid Hameed
    Jun 20, 2012 - 11:37PM

    Prime Minister Gilani had left his office with honour and grace. He had lead the nation a leap closer to civilization.

    Recommend

  • Wtf?
    Jun 21, 2012 - 12:19AM

    It is the beginning of a great era where no one is above the law. No politician or general can ever challenge the law of the land

    Gilani was not democratically elected but installed by the illegal NRO orchestrated from the outside, and with Musharraf.

    A great decision was made in the interest of the country. It is unacceptable to have so called leaders who work for the US and UK instead of the people.

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  • Falcon
    Jun 21, 2012 - 12:32AM

    I am usually impressed by your knowledge and insight, but for this time around, I will beg to disagree. First of all, not a lot of projects have been started by this Govt, so not much is going to be lost as well. Secondly, we are nearing elections anyways, so the change of guards won’t make much of a difference. On that note, the wizard behind the curtain is Mr. Zardari anyways. Thirdly, based on the general state of governance and grievances people had, this was necessary to cool off some of the steam that has picked up recently (leading to a lot of counterproductive activity as seen in the protests). Lastly, it strengthens people’s belief in the institutions and is good for democracy in the long run. As far as judiciary is concerned, it goes without saying that courts need to do much more (specially at the level of lower courts) to come across as fair and responsive to needs of the society.

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  • Dasmir
    Jun 21, 2012 - 12:41AM

    CJ is on a moral crusade.But he has fatally harmed the new sapling of democracy in the country.You may or may not like Zardari but he has turned out to be most mature politician using all persuasive skill to take whole country with him.Hats off to him!

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  • Saleem
    Jun 21, 2012 - 12:59AM

    I do not see any reason for removing the government when they had almost completed their term. Why the ‘swift’ decision NOW ??? Was it to remove the attention of public from the allegation leveled against the families ( Son ) of judges ? First the PEMRA chief was called in to shut up anyone who talks against his highness , ME LORD. Later to give a warning or as a retaliation, the government was dismissed. People will forget everything very soon … long live the family and the bounty of 300 crore.

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  • Jun 21, 2012 - 1:06AM

    “I know of a litigant before the Supreme Court who is claiming compensation for the state’s acquisition of his family’s property in 1948 and for which litigation commenced in 1988.”

    Are they Palestinians?

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  • faraz
    Jun 21, 2012 - 1:07AM

    You are Chairman LESCO; you should write about the stellar performance of your organization. How many LESCO offices were attacked by mobs this Sunday?Recommend

  • x
    Jun 21, 2012 - 1:20AM

    @hamid hameed,
    honor and grace, seriously?
    Of all the words that come to mind regarding gilani, honor or grace are not even close.
    and with his immortal words on an international channel regarding pakistani citizens that “why dont they leave then, who’s stopping them?”, he stripped us of all out honor and grace.

    Recommend

  • Saad
    Jun 21, 2012 - 1:29AM

    @Hamid, are you talking about Pakistan?

    @Rafay, I agree with the point you raise, but I believe it is important that a precedence be set for the future rulers of this country to respect the rule of law.
    With less than 6 months remaining for the interim government to take its place, there wasn’t much room left for the PM to bring any significant policy changes. No need for early elections.

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  • rafiq
    Jun 21, 2012 - 3:19AM

    How far judicial decision is justified everybody has to guess..

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  • Imtiaz
    Jun 21, 2012 - 5:08AM

    Your being chairman of LESCO tells the whole state of affairs in Gillani govenment.

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  • Rana Amjad
    Jun 21, 2012 - 5:40AM

    CJ should help democracy taking roots in our environment instead of settling scores with PPP & Gilani. Although not a fan of AAZ but he is a good leader & politician. Unfortunately army breathing down his neck makes it very difficult to break status quo in PK. AAZ is much better than Nawaz & Imran.

    Recommend

  • ParvezM
    Jun 21, 2012 - 5:52AM

    Chairman LESCO. Your first duty is to your customers and the health of your organization. You should put out a report on your performance weekly and what you are doing to fix problems. I for one resent your opinion on matters judicial or political, because you are a Federal Government employee.

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Jun 21, 2012 - 6:33AM

    @Wtf?: “It is unacceptable to have so called leaders who work for the US and UK instead of the people”

    That actually describes Ayub, Zia and Musharraf better than it describes any of the democratic prime ministers.

    Recommend

  • Usman
    Jun 21, 2012 - 9:26AM

    @Hamid Hameed:
    What are you smoking? Honetly, I want it too :)

    Recommend

  • observer
    Jun 21, 2012 - 10:04AM

    Nevertheless, it is often said that violence begins when sane men lose their ability to reason. The fact that reason is lost on the courtroom floor is a dark omen for us all.

    Beautifully put. And the tragedy is, that with this the last hope of reason prevailing in any discourse in Pakistan, has been extinguished.

    Recommend

  • R. Khan
    Jun 21, 2012 - 3:27PM

    Another wrong decision by our judiciary like of hanging of Bhutto which would come to haunt us for years! But who cares for the country since our egos are more important than the country.

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  • asim
    Jun 21, 2012 - 7:33PM

    The so called elected PPP Govt brought pakistan on the verge of economic default. Incompetent people are made the heads of institutions, No electricity, Gas shortage et etc PLUS HUGE borrowing. Pakistan’s loan total stands at 120b$ +. Dollar 96.

    Recommend

  • Reza Ali
    Jun 21, 2012 - 8:11PM

    The politicians reflect the state of the nation. What can you say to the executive whose own branches are not in its control (the military for instance, which is a part of the executive and supposedly under the firm control of the civilian minister and prime minister – wants to run the government through its intelligence agencies!); an inept and predatory judiciary with its own axe to grind; what to say about our grand parliament. We need to act now – the judiciary and parliament may be replaced but the military and civilian bureaucracy, the real ‘establishment’ will live on!

    Recommend

  • Hassan
    Jun 22, 2012 - 2:30AM

    Dear Chairman LESCO,
    you may not kow Gillani or never met his off springs @ Polo Lounge or Gym Khana, but Lashore knows what goes on them when LESCO is unable to light their homes, air their fans, the students cant study, Toddlers cant sleep and new born cant breath !
    May Almighty rewards you with what you deserves , Amen :)

    Recommend

  • TNT
    Jun 22, 2012 - 7:14AM

    The only policty that this govt was following was that of corruption. n that policy should ve been halted long ago.
    if u think u dont believe in the corruption stories then no offence but you are extremely naive. If not corruption, at least u can see the economic state of the country, or wait, those are stories too?

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