Punished for 30 seconds

Gilani or no Gilani, the democratic process should prevail and the current government should be allowed to continue and complete its term for the first time in political history of Pakistan.

Continuing its tradition, Pakistan has revealed another surprise in its political basket that has astonished the whole world.The Supreme Court of Pakistan has pronounced the sitting prime minister of the country as guilty of contempt of court. Punishing for the crime, it has efficiently and promptly punished the leader “incarcerating” him for 30 seconds, announcing the verdict in these words:

“As regards the sentence to be passed against the convict, we note that the findings and the conviction for contempt of court recorded above are likely to entail some serious consequences in terms of Article 63 (1) (g) of the Constitution which may be treated as mitigating factors towards the sentence to be passed against him. He is, therefore, punished under Article 5 of the contempt of court ordinance (ordinance 5 of 2003) with imprisonment till the rising of the court today.”

The verdict, however symbolic, sends a strong message to all institutions, especially political parties, that gone are the days when army, bureaucracy and politicians were free to manipulate the institution to do whatever they want.

The verdict should be seen within the context of a long power struggle in Pakistan among several institutions including the judiciary, the executive, legislature and most importantly the mighty armed forces. This power struggle is also part of the genuine process for every institution in the country until they mature and respect each other’s boundaries of checks and balances.

As it happens, whenever an institution is pushed hard and manipulated, declining its legitimate role in the whole system, the institution comes back and asserts itself strongly. In the process, however, sometimes the suppressed institution also crosses its own boundaries to prove that it is not as weak as perceived.

This is what happened with the judiciary in Pakistan. It was manipulated by all other institutions including the army, political parties, and the bureaucracy since independence. As a result, the institution was seen as a tool in the hand of other institutions and in the process it lost its credibility, trust and image.

Remember those days when a gang of the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stormed the court and humiliated openly the institution without any repercussions. It was the lowest point in the history of Pakistan’s politics which further traumatized not only the judiciary but the political system as a whole.

Then came the notorious reign of the last dictator, Pervez Musharraf, who on a fine morning decided to fire the Chief Justice. Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry, however, had the courage to challenge the dictator which started the courageous lawyer’s movement to reassert the pride and due place of the institution within the system. The movement became the last nail in the coffin of the dictator who had to leave the presidency and finally the country under the public and political pressure.

Since then, the judiciary has been trying to regain its lost space in the political system and this new verdict is only a sign of regaining its power in the system. Prime Minister Gilani, unfortunately, became the symbolic scapegoat in the process.

By not disbarring the Prime Minster from politics, the judges, however, left a loophole in the verdict, allowing the PPP leadership to take its time and complete its term. While licking their wounds, the PPP leadership might decide to appeal against the verdict and drag the process until it completes the term.

To his credit, Gilani is the longest serving prime minister in the country and now he has also become the only sitting prime minister punished by his Supreme Court.

Gilani or no Gilani, the democratic process should prevail and the current government should be allowed to continue and complete its term for the first time in political history of Pakistan.

Meanwhile we can wait for the next shockwave in the weird political system of Pakistan!

(From Viewpoint Online: http://www.viewpointonline.net/punished-for-30-seconds.html)

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