Another contempt?

Prime Minster Gilani has questioned the implication of his disqualification following his sentence by the Supreme Court in a contempt of court case on Thursday. First, soon after the court’s pronouncement, he chaired a cabinet meeting that extended him full support and upheld this view. Secondly, he addressed the National Assembly on Friday, asserting that no one except Parliament and the NA Speaker had the authority to disqualify and unseat him. One wonders whether Mr Gilani’s stand disregarding the court judgment constitutes another contempt; it certainly is the continuation of confrontational policy of the government. Parliamentary supremacy that would brook no intrusion from any outside agency is now a well known principle with the PPP and its allies. It first found expression as part of the logic of not obeying the verdict on the National Reconciliation Ordinance. Though entirely inconsistent with the norms of democratic governance, as universally observed in countries where this system is in vogue, the PPP-led government and its supporters cite it as a means of strengthening democracy. Somehow, they hold the view that any attempt at whittling down this principle, even by the country’s highest judicial institution, would amount to derailing our nascent democracy. To stress this point, Mr Gilani maintained that “we have been trained in the democratic mould” and thus he would not let any move to harm democracy succeed. He conveniently forgot that his first political assignment was Minister under military dictator General Ziaul Haq.

During his address on the floor of the House, he severely criticised the Sharif brothers and indirectly threatened that the Punjab government could be brought down only with intelligence; funds were not needed. The PPP believed in the policy of taking everyone along though it had the opportunity to form government in the province in 2008. In a somewhat ridiculing manner, he said that one brother would not recognise the President and the other the Prime Minister, adding that if anyone did not have confidence in him he could bring before the House a no-confidence motion.

Several eminent jurists have in the meantime observed that Mr Gilani stands convicted, he is disqualified under Article 63 (i) g to remain an MP, hold the office of Prime Minister or any other office under the government. It is a matter of great pity that Mr Gilani and his party refuse to abide by the cardinal principle of the Constitution that binds all, without exception, to bow before the judicial verdicts, let alone of the Supreme Court. There is no other way to establish the writ of law in the country. The government should know that the eyes of the entire world, particularly of friendly countries, are on Pakistan hoping that democracy takes firm roots here and is able to get out of the effects of harm done to its polity by the several bouts of military rule which had prevailed here.