The saga, drama, case, issue — or whatever one wishes to dub it — of the Supreme Court and the prime ministerial letter has reached a definite low, and the longer it is prolonged, the lower will be the descent. It is all also somewhat reminiscent of the old story of the boy and the wolf.
Shots on the television screens of prime ministers arriving at the hallowed apex Court no longer provide excitement or even much interest. It’s all old hat. As an editorial in the press had it, commenting on the difference between the Yousaf Raza Gilani and the Raja Pervaiz Ashraf appearances, “the three-ring circus of spectacular proportions has degenerated into an almost-pitiful sideshow”. All this latest appearance actually did was to highlight the indignity involved in public appearances of those that have managed the route up into high places. The pushing, shoving, jostling of the companions and ‘admirers’ to get close to the leading actor and be picked up by the cameras is hardly edifying in any way to any of them. It seems that all would do well — on the showing — in rugby scrum half.
But then, pushing, shoving and jostling is very much part of life in the republic, whether it involves those known as VVIPs or simply VIPs or the general public. It happens on the steps of the apex Court in the same manner as it happens at weddings or other such functions when the buffet table is unveiled.
Anyhow, the letter business needs to be brought to a closure, however it is done. To the layperson, it really seems to be a simple matter. Just write the letter to the Swiss authorities telling them that the Malik Qayyum letter stands withdrawn, cancelled, annulled or whatever, that it should lawfully have not been written. That this present prime minister needs almost three weeks to consult with his legal wizards as to whether to write or not to write seems farcical. But then, none of the legal minds which have been applied to the matter, whether involved with the government or not, can even mutually agree on the constitutionality of writing, though the Supreme Court is clear in its combined mind.
And one must ask that if the letter is written, merely giving the bare bones, will the heavens fall, will the president of the republic be stripped of his preciously guarded immunity, will the government, which is hardly a government, vanish into thin air or will the Swiss accept the withdrawal and let it go at that? Amidst all the convoluted implications set forth by the prime ministerial team, none seems clear on how the immunity will be affected. As far as can be garnered, it will be there with the president for as long as he remains in that position. All things, good or bad, come to an end at some point, so Asif Ali Zardari will have to reconcile himself to the fact that the probability is that somewhere along the line, he will cease to be a head of state. He will have to just take his chances when that dreaded day comes.
Or, as has been mooted this past week, is there a limitation bar under Swiss law which could come into effect this month? Some seem to think so, others not.
And if the wretched letter is not written, what alternatives are there? Will the Court continue to extend the deadline ad infinitum, or will successive prime ministers of the republic play a never-ending round of musical chairs? Or will one side blink. And if so, which one?
There is one clear mind that opens up to the press frequently and sticks to its guns. Oracle Aitzaz Ahsan is adamant that there is no middle path; that the Court has no option but to press on as it is doing; and that prime ministers will come and go until March.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2012.
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