LAHORE – All eyes are set on July 25, the day the prime minister is supposed to inform the Supreme Court through the attorney general whether he will write the letter to Swiss authorities to have the shelved corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari reopened. In the light of the response from the country’s chief executive the apex court will issue its directions for the future.
There is not the slightest indication available of any flexibility in the government’s stand. And the tough language being used by the PPP leaders against the judges shows the prime minister’s counsel will inform the bench that the Constitution doesn’t allow his client to send the communication the court wants him to.
Some constitutional experts say that after a categorical no from the government the court will decide whether to take some punitive action against the prime minister or exercise any of the six options it had earlier enlisted. PPP leaders think the lawyers will be able to drag the case for quite some time pressing into service the new contempt law.
However, other people have a different point of view. They say one of the options available to the court is to appoint a commission to write the said letter. Another option which the bench may exercise is ordering the prime minister to go for fresh elections.
In case the court appoints a commission, the prime minister will be absolved of the responsibility of writing the letter, says former law minister Dr Khalid Ranjha. “In such a situation the threat to the government of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf will be over.”
However, senior lawyer Akram Sheikh says the court may also order the prime minister to hold fresh elections. In this situation, he said the head of the government will have to start the process.
The government has already been offering talks to the opposition for early elections. However, the opposition wants the talks on its own terms. Initial informal contacts between the two sides have already failed to make any headway.
While it is not clear what turn the situation will take in case of the appointment of a commission, a directive for elections will start the process of change.
For fresh elections the prime minister and the opposition leader will evolve consensus on the caretaker prime minister.
The prime minister will advise the president to dissolve the National Assembly, and the elections will be held in 90 days thereafter.
But before the fresh elections, the voter lists have to be completed.
Acting chief election commissioner Mian Shakirullah Jan had said recently that the electoral rolls will be completed by the end of the current month.
Then, before the elections delimitation of constituencies is reviewed.
In case somebody has objection to the boundaries of any constituency he approaches the Election Commission to have his grievance redressed. If there is no complaint, which is hard to believe, the process can be skipped.
Thereafter, the elections will be held in three months.
Supposing that the ruling party and the opposition reach some kind of agreement by August, elections can be held by October-November.
But the federal government can delay the process if it so desires. It has its own governments in three provinces, which can be directed to make arrangements for the local elections. The local elections are a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment and the PPP will be within its right to ask the governments of Sindh, Balochistan and KP to hold these elections before the general polls.
Once this exercise is started, the general elections will automatically be delayed by a few months. This means the exercise will not be possible before the next year, when the assemblies will be completing their mandated five-year term.
Since holding of local elections is a constitutional requirement, no party will be able to raise any objection against them.
Yet another factor which can upset all plants is a heavy monsoon.
Met Office has predicted 15 per cent more rains this year, which means floods are possible.
Last time, some 20 million people had been affected by floods which were rated as unprecedented in the country’s history. A large number of people had been displaced and crops on vast areas destroyed.
South Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh were among the worst-hit areas.
This means the federal government may use some cards to delay the general elections. As a result, the situation will continue to remain murky in days ahead.
Political observatory forecasts murky weather