Hearing the NRO implementation case on July 12, the Supreme Court decreed in unambiguous terms that the Prime Minister would have to give a compliance report, by July 25, about having written to the Swiss courts to reopen the graft cases against President Asif Zardari. It now seems quite obvious that the latest legislation aimed at acting as a shield for Raja Pervaiz Ashraf against any court action in case he chose to defy the order would be of little avail. The five-member bench issued a stern warning that in case of disobedience, the court could take any action it deemed necessary. It is interesting to note that to forestall such an action, the government had rushed through the National Assembly on July 9 and the Senate on July 11 a bill that purported to exempt Prime Minister and a number of other top functionaries from the purview of the contempt law, and before the hearing on the NRO implementation case could resume on July 12, the President signed it into law in the early hours of the morning. As the letter issue is vital to the survival of Mr Zardari as President, the opinion of PPP’s own stalwarts, Senators Raza Rabbani and Aitzaz Ahsan, that certain sections of the bill were ultra vires as well as the walk-out staged by the PML-N and JUI-F were summarily ignored. And on its part, the bench hearing the NRO case also did not seem to notice that any such legislation had come into force. It rejected the PM’s response, received through the Attorney General, that the Law Ministry had been asked to give its opinion, which would be considered by the cabinet for any action it considered necessary, and declared that the court had, in its verdict of March 8, asked for the letter to be written without seeking advice from any source. That order, the bench maintained, stood valid for the present PM to obey.
It is quite likely that during the time till July 25 when the PM’s compliance becomes due, the courts might pronounce on the petitions against the new legislation on contempt. According to some critics, it would be struck down taking off its so-called protective cover and exposing Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to Mr Gilani’s fate. Could one hope that the pursuit of the unedifying course of institutional clash by the ruling leadership would be changed to let the rule of law prevail and save the country from plunging into another crisis? There are hordes of festering problems that cry out for attention.