There have been calls for Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s resignation after his conviction by the Supreme Court. While Nawaz Sharif has demanded resignation, Imran Khan has threatened a tsunami march on Islamabad. However, the PPP and its allies show no signs of stress or retreat and the diehard PPP supporters consider this yet another case of discrimination against the PPP. Some view it as a power struggle [between two sections of the corrupt elites that govern Pakistan], which has little to do with democracy, independence of judiciary, or the rule of law.
The court cited article 63 (1) (g) of the Constitution and observed that the premier might face consequences under it. The Article 63 (1) (g) of the Constitution says:
(1) A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if:-
(g) he is propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the Ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or morality, or the maintenance of public order, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan.
It is a bit ironic that Pakistan’s political parties have not paid attention to amending this provision which is inherently anti-democratic with a Ziaist bent and can be abused to cover almost anything under the sun.
Ideology and morality are highly subjective and have been the pet excuses of Pakistan’s autocrats to persecute their opponents. In today’s Pakistan, how many people would remain qualified to be members of Parliament if this was really applied by the courts whose judges have been collaborators of military dictators who trampled upon the constitution with impunity!
In the broader context, this article belongs to the 18th century and does not have any place in the modern world. There should not be any holy cows or restrictions on free speech under any pretext whatsoever. All political parties should unite to strike this article from the constitution otherwise it is likely that it will be abused in the future. Only the court of the people through elections should decide who should or should not sit in the parliament unless she/he is convicted of a crime by a court of law.
This is not an argument to defend Zardari and Gilani. That there is widespread corruption is undeniable. But why some organs of the state, particularly army and judiciary, continue to be the holy cows. For most of Pakistan’s history, these two combined have dominated the system and are largely responsible for a lot of what is wrong with Pakistan today. Isn’t this ridiculous that instead of holding them accountable for their misdeeds and mistakes, there is virtually no mechanism or effort to bring them into the accountability net as well.
There is no doubt that politicians should be held accountable and everyone should be equal in the eyes of law. But why some are more equal than the others? This is where people like Imran Khan stand on a shaky ground because they are not willing to take on the military establishment or the judiciary. There is no room for selective accountability in a true democracy. If civil contracts awarded to foreign companies are subject to judicial scrutiny, so should be the defence purchases running into billions of dollars.
Isn’t it a violation of the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan when the Supreme Court wastes tax payers’ time and money on taking suo moto action against an actress for allegedly carrying alcohol but fails to take notice of the thousands of deaths of “ordinary” Pakistanis at the hands of terrorists. I wonder how many terrorists have been tried and convicted since 2000? To my knowledge, not a single person has been convicted for any role in carrying out a bomb blast.
It is curious that while the Supreme Court goes to extraordinary lengths to look into the working of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and insists upon appointing persons of its choice to investigate particular cases against the officials of the incumbent government, it happily releases known terrorists like Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami’s Qari Saifullah Akhtar and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s Malik Ishaq on bail.
It is hypocritical on part of chest-thumping pseudo-nationalists to condemn the American drone attacks as violation of the sovereignty but turn a blind eye to the reports that it was General Kayani who had agreed to these attacks. The New York Times had reported that Mike McConnell, the director of the US national intelligence and Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA director met with Pervez Musharraf and the army chief, Gen. Kayani on Jan. 9, 2008 and offered a ‘range of increased covert operations’.
A Newsweek magazine (March 22, 2008) report disclosed that the wave of Predator attacks were the result of understandings the high-level visitors reached with Musharraf and other top Pakistanis, ‘giving the United States virtually unrestricted authority to hit targets in the border areas.’
If drone attacks are violation Pakistan’s sovereignty and indeed they are, then why the Supreme Court has so far chosen to ignore these grave allegations against the army chiefs that they colluded with the American CIA. Both our politicians and army generals have been guilty of seeking American intervention in domestic affairs. But why do we have double standards? If a civilian seeks US help, he is accused of treason but when a general gives carte blanche to the CIA to conduct drone attacks, the matter is hushed up in the name of national security.