It’s the law, stupid!

Published: April 29, 2012

Yesterday, the Supreme Court gave us a 'first' we can, or let me rephrase, we should take pride in. PHOTO: AFP

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s conviction for refusing to reopen a corruption investigation against the president consequently made him the first serving prime minister in Pakistan’s history to be convicted by a court.

In a country like Pakistan, the list of firsts seems never ending. Regrettably, most firsts don’t give our people an opportunity to gloat. And yet yesterday, the Supreme Court gave us a first we can, or let me rephrase, we should take pride in.

Some would question my assertion of believing that we have good reason to revel in our prime minister’s conviction. But this is bigger than that. This is not about a ruling party that is widely perceived as corrupt and unpopular, it’s not about the government allegedly conspiring against the military establishment, it’s not about the president’s immunity and nor is it about a conspiracy to derail democracy.

It is though only about the rule of law – the foundation for both our liberties and for order. If anything, the court should be applauded yesterday for showing restraint in the premier’s sentence, which was detention lasting no longer than a minute until the session was adjourned.

It was symbolic. If anything, the court has now left further dialogue to take place in the political arena. In the face of adversity, primarily due to being accused of attempting to overreach its jurisdiction and derailing democracy, the court has served its primary function in a constitutional democracy by protecting the constitution and essentially left the punitive aspects of the case to others: the parliament, the media, the opposition leaders.

Whether the prime minister turned the contempt case from ‘catastrophe to triumph’ yesterday should not be in question in regards to the court’s orders.

Quite to the contrary in fact, the only question that should be raised is whether the judiciary has protected its constitution and subsequently preserved the nation’s respect while the entire world is watching. Not the premier.

And to that, I gloat endlessly as the supreme law of the land has triumphed.

Read more by Hassaan here.


hassan.khan

Hassaan Khan

A sub-editor on the national desk of The Express Tribune. He graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Bilal khan

    Instead of treating this as a legal issue,this verdict has been exploited for political gains by using the Sindh card. Inciting racist hate against a province to divert attention away from the corruption done is a desperate strategy to confuse the public.
    Playing with the emotions of the public by propagating racial bias and ethnic bigotry against punjab will do ppp no favors in the long run. At the moment by playing the race card the ruling party might incite people in rural sindh into giving them votes but they’ll also realise the racist game played by the ruling party.Recommend

  • Zafar Iqbal

    Trying to make this into a political matter is a disgusting attempt to hide the truth.PPP shouldn’t have done what it has done in regards to turning this issue into one where the ppp has tried to portray this issue as one of race. This racist bias that ppp has shown against Punjab will only weaken pakistan as ppp is victimising and persecuting the people of one province.
    The PPP of benazir was a symbol of the federation,sadly the present ppp has made itself into a regional ethnic party.Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    It was a smart decision. If the PM was jailed , then PPP could play the victim card once again, in the upcoming elections. Elections are near, and it would be stupid to give PPP any chance to capitalize on anything or anyone. And more so, PPP needs to complete its term, we so need stability and a democratic gov to complete its term. Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    It was a smart decision. If PM had been jailed, then PPP would have played victim card once again, and would have a fat chance to win the elections again. As elections are near, it is important not to give PPP any chance to capitalize on anything or anyone. Also, we need political stability, and for that a democratic gov needs to complete its term.Recommend

  • S

    A court that says slapping a woman is worse than killing an innocent man in the park? Nothing to be proud of. The Supreme Court IS derailing democracy. The PM was protecting the constitution. People who claim the Supreme Court is independent are highly foolish. They are only concerned about PPP. What about the murder cases? The may 12th massacre which took place because of the CJ. Why did he not take up that case? What about the innocent lives that are lost on the streets of Karachi everyday? If he would have been convicted for his corruption cases that would make sense but convicting him for not writing a letter to the SWISS govt/court goes to show he is undermining our countries integrity. Lets not be so ignorant and call for justice for the acid victims and not drop those cases claiming that theres lack of evidence. I know this won’t be posted as im disagreeing with the sub editor of Express Tribune. Recommend

  • Yoda

    While I would agree with the symbolism of the conviction, which will surely be a landmark in our political landscape, this does raise the question of whether the Supreme Court was truly acting in the spirit of Justice–an ordinary citizen would hardly be given a “sentence” of a minute, which flies in the face of the old adage that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Although one would be hard-pressed to find a judiciary in the world that fully embodies this ideal, the fact that the court showed such leniency to Gillani because of his position as the Prime Minister is blatantly offensive.Recommend

  • buttjee

    The Supreme Court had dragged this case unnecessarily for months. Where as it was a simple case of blatant and naked defiance of Supreme Court orders by the PM. In fact by siding with his corrupt master and not with the people of Pakistan whose wealth has been looted by Zardari, the PM has flouted the oath of his office. He should therefore be tried for treason also. For all intent and practical purposes Mr. Gilani is a convicted criminal and must be stripped of his membership of the Parliament and the PM’s slot. His forced continuation as PM will bring shame to the country.Recommend

  • Modazul

    @S
    Supreme Court is the highest authority in a democratic country, even higher than the President itself. If the Supreme Court doesn’t punish these TOP criminals I.e the corrupt PM and corrupt President then who will? The court isn’t derailing DEMOCRACY. When Richard Nixon was brought in front of the court for his role in the Watergate scandal, immunity couldn’t be used as a defense and he was answerable to the court. When he claimed he had immunity, the US supreme court said it’s upto them to decide that. Anyways, it wasnt derailing democracy, it was justiceRecommend

  • Parvez

    This ruling on a legal level may be appreciable, the judges having shown restraint.
    The question being asked is weather the other side understood this or has it been seen as weakness, because you have to speak in the language that the other side understands. Recommend

  • Taseer

    Excellent write up Recommend

  • Umer

    In a country like Pakistan, the list
    of firsts seems never ending.
    Regrettably, most firsts don’t give
    our people an opportunity to gloat.
    And yet yesterday, the Supreme Court
    gave us a first we can, or let me
    rephrase, we should take pride in.

    Not at all. First PM is merely upholding the constitution which is not a crime. Second the case is political that is whey all case are opened against PPP and not against any of the other parties.Recommend

  • Umer

    @Modazul:

    Supreme Court is the highest authority
    in a democratic country, even higher
    than the President itself.

    This can’t be true in a democratic county. In a democracy peoples’ choice, the parliament, has to remain above any unelected institutions or person otherwise it’s not a democracy it’s a dictatorship of sorts. It’s also easy to blackmail or pressurise a smaller number of people say 11 or 17 or 24 into making a certain decision but hard to blackmail or pressurise a larger parliament.Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    @Umer:
    You mean to say a parliamentarian can loot and plunder but nobody can ask any questions because he is an elected representative. Give me a break. We the honorable citizens of this country want to live a dignified live.Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    @Umer:
    And you said that all cases are being opened against PPP. May I mention here that PPP is the party in government, its members are the minister and they leave no stone unturned to loot and plunder. Would the SC open cases on PTI or JI? Those parties arent even in the parliament. I seriously suggest you get your IQ checked. You might be in for a rude surprise. Recommend

  • Umer

    @Karachiwala:

    Would the SC open cases on PTI or JI?
    Those parties arent even in the
    parliament.

    You left out N League, and also those who regularly abduct and often kill Pakistan citizens without any repercussions. I wonder why? Recommend

  • S

    I would advise both the writer of this article and the individuals who have responded to it to take a Pakistan government class again and also take some time out to read the constitution. Also not to compare the American governmental system to Pakistan. Their constitution and governmental system is different. Writing a letter to the swiss courts is different from the watergate or the memo-gate. You individuals might be sure that the PM is corrupt but this is not about being corrupt and just not justify to disqualify him.Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    @Umer:
    Classic PPP tactic, instead of answering the questions raised by me, you change the topic by deflecting questions onto me.Recommend

  • Ammad Malik

    The premise for your entire article is flawed. This is the most political Supreme court in the history of Pakistan. It’s choice of cases to pursue and suo motos to take is blatantly biased. There are much more serious cases lying with our auspicious judges, however, somehow they feel that USD 60 million is the only thing this country requires, when infact that is less than 1 day of Government expenditure in Pakistan. How about taking up DHA Scam, which is almost 10 times the size of this?Recommend

  • Umer

    @Karachiwala:

    This question goes to the heart of the issue ie whether justice is being served or is it just a political game being played by players behind the scene to eliminate non pro-establishment forces as has been the case in the past. If worst crimes are ignored by a judiciary then this can hardly be considered justice and supporters of such judiciary are not in any position to dispense moral sermons to anyone. Recommend

  • yousaf

    Last line of the article is where supreme court has given real meanings to the word HOPE.God bless the “land of the pure”Recommend