The year 2012 will be known as the one of judicial activism. The Supreme Court disqualified Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani as the prime minister of Pakistan because he failed to comply with an order for writing a letter to the Swiss authorities to have the alleged graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari reopened.
The leader from Multan was defiant in his attitude to the last moment and he continued to insist that he would sacrifice his office but would not stab the party in the back by sending the required communication. In his opinion such a step would amount to breaching the Constitution, an offence punishable with death.
After the court verdict, Mr Gilani got his son Abdul Qadir elected as MNA from the Multan seat (NA-151) which fell vacant as a result of his disqualification. President Zardari got Raja Pervaiz Ashraf elected as the new head of government. At the outset many believed that hat the man from Gujjar Khan would not survive more than a few weeks and was fated to go the Gilani way on the issue of the Swiss letter. But, contrary to all expectations Raja has completed about six months in power and faces no threat till the establishment of an interim government that will hold the elections. He managed to survive because he wrote the Swiss letter, although no action has so far been taken by Geneva on the said communication.
Law Minister Farooq Naek, who has been defending Zardari and Benazir in these cases, says that despite the letter sent by the government no case against the president will be reopened as he enjoys immunity.
Another important issue which dominated the national scene for a long time during the outgoing year was that of the memorandum scandal. It was alleged that Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani, had written a letter to Admiral Mike Mullen suggesting the way to rein in the Armed Forces of Pakistan. He proposed the induction of a new security team that could protect the US interests.
Although the journalist-turned-diplomat denied that he had sent any such communication, COAS Gen Kayani and then ISI chief Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha submitted declarations that the letter had been written. Under pressure from the two generals, the government had to remove Haqqani from the coveted office. Later, a commission that investigated the Abbottabad raid by the CIA commandoes that led to the killing Osama Bin laden held that Haqqani was not loyal to Pakistan and that the memorandum had undoubtedly been written.
The former ambassador who had been called to Pakistan to get his version on the subject was allowed to go back to the US on the undertaking that he would return to his country on a four-day prior notice. However, now that the court wants him to appear before it, his lawyer says the former ambassador cannot come to Pakistan because of security concerns.
Not many people believe that the man who is more loyal to the US than to his own country will face any action.
He has joined the faculty of a US university and enjoys full backing of the US government because of his ‘valuable’ services he has allegedly been rendering to save their interests.
The commission has finalized its report on the Abbottabad raid and may make it public any time.
Another landmark judgment was given on the ISI funds distributed to political leaders for the formation of the (defunct) Islami Jamhoori Ittehad to block the PPP’s return to power as a result of the 1990 elections.
The court held that the elections had been rigged. It held Generals Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani responsible for breaching the constitution, but awarded no punishment to them. As for the alleged recipients of the money, the court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency to probe the matter.
Finding it difficult to take action against the two top generals as it could lead to a serious reaction from the Armed Forces, the PPP government has decided to’ bury’ the Asghar Khan case. “We don’t want the FIA to drag former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for allegedly receiving the money”, Federal Minister Syed Khursheed Shah told reporters while justifying why the government would not take any action against the givers and takers of money.
Interestingly, the ruling party and the opposition have similar views on the issue, although both sides talk vociferously of adhering to court verdicts.
Yet another important judgment during the outgoing year was given by the Lahore High Court. It directed the federal government to construct the Kalabagh Dam, as decided by the Council of Common Interests in 1991, and allay the reservations of the smaller provinces, as desired by the CCI at a meeting in 1998.
The judgment raised political temperature in the country and the three smaller provinces issued strongly worded statements against the controversial project.
The PML-N, which has been supporting the gigantic project in the past, said that the dam should not be set up unless there was a national consensus. This was a polite way of saying no to the project.
As things stand, there is no possibility of the dam being set up in the foreseeable future as there is no likelihood of all provinces agreeing to it. And if at all there is consensus on anything, it is on ‘not’ constructing it. This clearly means that unless some major energy project joins the national grid the country will continue to face power shortages in the years ahead. The only other way to overcome the energy crisis is allocating more funds for thermal generation, which is a very costly proposition.
A very unfortunate thing seen during the outgoing year was a controversy that Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s son Arsalan received about Rs 340 million from the real estate tycoon Malik Riaz.
Riaz, who is a close friend of President Zardari, alleged that he has been giving money and sponsoring foreign trips of Arsalan on the promise that he would get the payer ‘fovaurable’ judgments in cases pending before the apex court. Arsalan denied the charge.
The apex court set up a one-man commission comprising Dr Shoaib Suddle, the Federal Tax Ombudsman.
Dr Suddle concluded that both Riaz Malik and Arsalan were tax evaders and would be proceeded against.
As for Malik’s charge against Arsalan, the Supreme Court said it was a matter of civil nature, involving no public money, and both sides were free to take it to any forum of their choice.
Whatever the outcome, the alleged misdoing of the son dented the image of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
During the year, the PML-N set new records of allowing turncoats from other parties to join it. Many criticized the PML-N for letting in hordes of opportunists and power-hungry people, but the Sharifs turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to such criticism.
The PML-N president believes that his party will get a two-thirds majority in the next elections. And it’s perhaps because of this ambitious target that they are allowing all electables to their fold, forgetting their past ‘misdeeds’ and their role in strengthening dictatorship.
The party proved its public support in Punjab by winning almost all seats in the by-elections.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan is trying to improve his position across the country. He paid a visit to South Waziristran and also held public meetings in various cities to gauge his public following. He alleged that both the PPP and the PML-N were ‘allies’ and their ‘mock fight’ in the public should not be taken seriously.
While other parties were preparing for the elections, the Pakistan Awami Tehrik of Dr Tahirul Qadri was thinking of ways and means to block the electoral process. By the time these lines are published, Dr Qadri would have come back to Pakistan and announced his future course of action. He wants the existing electoral system changed as it brings back the very same people to parliament again and again. He supports a participatory democratic system which meets the requirements of the modern era.
President Zardari’s political activities in the Presidency came under criticism during the outgoing year and a petition was moved in the Supreme Court. The apex court held that the president was supposed to be a neutral person. He was asked not to use the Presidency for political activities.
The president did not give much importance to the verdict and continued to use the Presidency for the activities of his party. Information Minister Kaira, who is also information secretary of the PPP, said in very clear terms that the president’s office was political and he could not be kept away from political activities.
The Lahore High Court was hearing a contempt petition against the president in December. Maybe, the court passes some order by the time these lines are published.
At the outset many believed that hat the man from Gujjar Khan would not survive more than a few weeks and was fated to go the Gilani way on the issue of the Swiss letter. But, contrary to all expectations Raja has completed about six months in power