Pakistani Supreme Court Says President, PM Could Be Disqualified
Pakistani Supreme Court on Tuesday announced that it could disqualify both the president of the republic and its prime minister because they refused to re-open high profile corruption cases. The government received a week’s time to tackle stalled corruption files against president Asif Ali Zardari and other key political figures, but made no ruling, refraining to outlining options which are to be reviewed by a larger panel of judges.
The Supreme Court and the government had been in a standoff since December 2009, when judges decided to revoke an amnesty by which president Zardari and 8,000 other people had escaped possible corruption charges.
More than 30 politicians had cases against them which fell under the amnesty dictated in 2007 by former president Pervez Musharraf, who recently announced that he was about to make a comeback as a savior of what he thinks is a country in disarray. The document by which Musharraf made the investigation against the top officials impossible is called the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
With the amnesty out of the way, the supreme court decided that the 3,478 cases, which range from murder, embezzlement and abuse of power to different bank loan write-offs, must take their course, including the cases related to multi-million-dollar laundering operations in which the incumbent president is involved.
The government has refused however to address letters to Swiss authorities in order to clarify the situation of the presidential cases and those of the other dignitaries involved. the members of the government contended that the president of the republic was protected by the immunity laws and could not be investigated, thereby addressing the Swiss authorities was useless.
President Ali Zardari himself made a statement last week, by which he said that as long as he was the president of the republic no letter would be sent to the authorities in Switzerland.
The presiding judge Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said that there was “prima facie evidence” that the prime minister of the country Yousuf Raza Gilani was not an “honest” man and that he had violated his oath.
For this, the presiding judge said the two could be disqualified from the parliament and their removal from office. Contempt proceedings against top officials, the establishment of a commission to implement the court’s rule, or a referendum on the matter are possible ways the judges outlined for the solution of this situation.
The judges said that the refusal to address the Swiss authorities letters in order to find out about the transactions in the president’s cases went against the constitutional oath and the Quran.
One of the solutions the five-judge panel offered was to declare Gilani as ineligible for a parliament seat for five years.
The confrontation between the Pakistan People’s Party and the judicial system is related, according to an analysis of the Hindustan Times, to the famous memo presumed to have been dispatched by the president Zardari to the authorities in Washington, by which Zardari would demand the Americans to help him get rid of the military influence in the power structure of the country.
In this memo, already dubbed in Pakistan as Memogate, the president of Pakistan is said to have asked the Americans to protect his against an attempted coup set up by the military.
The power structure in this Muslim country relies on the balance between the civilian authorities and the authority of the military.
The corruption in Pakistan is a very serious problem of the society, and is echoed by a huge social struggle in the neighboring country, India, where an anti-graft bill has been proposed, and failed the vote, in the parliament of India.
So huge is the corruption problem in India, that it gathered tens of thousands of people around activist Anna Hazare, former companion of the iconic Mahatma Gandhi, in a fast unto death to apply pressure on the authorities in India.
Hazare’s hunger strike inspired a Muslim businessman in Islamabad, who decided last year to fast in Pakistan in order to foster anti-graft fight in his country.11