April 26, 2012
The Dimly Smiling Prime Minister of Pakistan
By Saeed Qureshi
It was quite amusing to watch Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani exuding a dim smile and facial relief after hearing the much awaited verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The prime minister has remained strung on the tenterhooks of uncertainty and paranoia for a few months as to what would be the outcome of the proceedings of the contempt case being heard by the Apex court.
But perhaps the matter may not end here. His standing as the prime minister has been fairly tainted and tarnished as he did not come clean out of the messy situation he was stuck in because of his emphatic refusal to write a letter to the Swiss concerned authorities for reopening the money laundering cases against the incumbent president of Pakistan honorable Asif Ali Zardari.
But his stubborn defiance or resistance to not write the letter in order to save his party boss exhibits his unflinching loyalty to the president of Pakistan who is also the chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party. He is certainly under a heavy debt of gratitude to Mr. Zardari for his appointment as the prime minister of Pakistan although initially the party chairman had publically announced to field Makhdoom Amin Faheem as the candidate for the exalted position. Later there were rumors that Shah Mahmood Qureshi was being tipped on behalf of the PPP to be elected by the parliament as the prime minister of Pakistan.
But loyalty to the chief has cost Prime Minister Gilani dearly. By saving a highly corrupt boss and party chief, prime minister has received a deep dent in his well established reputation as a man of principles and of clean character. He has been under a constant shadow of smear, accusations and disparagement for the blatant misuse of his vast powers as the chief executive of Pakistan. Further he is maligned because of the involvement of his two flamboyant sons in mammoth scams of corruption that are under investigation of the superior courts.
As we all are aware, his elder son Abdul Qadir Gilani skimmed millions of dollars in the Hajj scandal for which a former Hajj minister Mr. Hamid Saeed Kazmi had to sacrifice his ministerial post and face the terse legal proceedings that might entail his incarceration as well.
While delivering the verdict of this contempt case, the Supreme Court has nevertheless hinted that the prime minister could also face grim consequences due to a constitutional clause 63(1) (g) which stipulates that a convicted person cannot hold a prestigious office. It is perhaps because of that caveat that the president of the PMLN Mian Nawaz Sharif has demanded Prime Minister Gilani’s resignation.
By all indications he would not resign as despite a galore of serious legal and moral lapses by every minister of the incumbent government, not one ever thought of relinquishing his job as is the practice in other countries. Even in India many ministers resigned because there was an enquiry in progress in the courts or they were accused of indulging in corruption or committed dereliction of their responsibilities.
He might like to hang on to the post until the time of the next elections which means he would exhaust his tenure regardless of whether he is clean or tainted. But if he can still have the temerity of facing the incessant flow of accusations, his two sons cannot be absolved or walk out of the court until there was incontrovertible evidence to get themselves acquitted.
The Supreme Court is also seized of a petition against the former media advisor of the prime minister, Khurram Rasool, indicted in a case of taking bribe worth Rs630 million, from Pervez Hussain for award of an LPG contract. Khurram Rasool has already confessed the incidence of the crime and has even surrendered a few crores that he has pocketed in concert with other felons, reportedly including one of the sons of the prime minister.
While his position as the prime minister of Pakistan has become exceedingly controversial, the constitutions clause 63(1) (g) would dangle on his head like a proverbial “Sword of Damocles”. As the honorable court very rightly pointed out that there are very serious consequences for the prime minister in regard to the application of the clause that relates to the eligibility of the members of the national assembly.
If in the coming days another petition is filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the continuation of Prime Minister Gilani as the chief executive of government, he will have to justify legality of his being in the highest executive office which presently seems to be a pretty tall order.
The best way-out, therefore, for the present government and for the prime minister is to call for early elections so that a new leadership is thrown up through a veritable democratic process of fair elections. If he is adamant to remain as the prime minister despite the thickening of dark clouds over his political horizon, he might further harm his image which would be irredeemable. The possibility of face saving can be explored now and not after loss of time and loss of face.