June 20, 2012
Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani sacked for protecting
President Zardari's corruption
By Abdus-Sattar Ghazali
The Supreme Court of Pakistan Tuesday (6/19/2012) sacked Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from office for protecting President Asif Ali Zardari's corruption.
On April 26, the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, convicted Gilani of contempt for refusing to write a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening multi-million-dollar graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The Court judgment Tuesday said that Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani has become disqualified from being a Member of the Parliament from the date (April 26, 2012) of pronouncement of the contempt of court verdict. He has also ceased to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan with effect from the said date and the office of the Prime Minister shall be deemed to be vacant accordingly, the verdict said adding: The Election Commission of Pakistan is required to issue notification of disqualification of Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and the President of Pakistan is required to take necessary steps under the Constitution to ensure continuation of the democratic process through parliamentary system of government in the country.
Just hours later, Pakistan's election commission issued a formal notice disqualifying Gilani as a member of parliament, backdating the disqualification to the date of his conviction. Also the cabinet stood dissolved after the court verdict and President Zardari immediately began consultations to appoint a new Prime Minister.
Swiss case against President Zardari
It may be recalled that in August 2003, a Swiss Court found former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her widower, Asif Zardari, guilty of money laundering. Investigation Judge Daniel Devaud sentenced them to a six-month suspended jail term, fined them $50,000 each and ordered they pay more than $2m to the Pakistani Government along with a diamond necklace. The case was related to an illegal six per cent of commission or bribe worth $12 million for awarding a pre-shipment customs inspection contract to two Swiss firms Societe Generale de Surveillance and Cotecna. The judge said they had illegally deposited millions of dollars in accounts in Switzerland and ordered the money be returned to Pakistan.
Since 2009, the Supreme Court has repeatedly demanded that Gilani's government write a letter to Swiss authorities asking that the case against Zardari be revived. The Supreme Court wants the 60 million dollars in this account returned to the country.
The four year regime of the sacked Prime Minister Gilani was perhaps the worst in Pakistan's 65 year turbulent history. According to the calculation preformed by Transparency International (TI), Pakistan has lost an unbelievably high amount, more than Rs8,500 billion (Rs8.5 trillion or US$94 billion), in corruption, tax evasion and bad governance during the last four years of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's tenure. In February 2012, TI adviser in Pakistan, Adil Gillani, acknowledged that "Pakistan does not need even a single penny from the outside world if it effectively checks the menace of corruption and ensures good governance." The Transparency International also noted that the four years of the present regime under Gilani had been the worst in terms of corruption and bad governance in the country's history.
According to Ansar Abbasi of the News, it is not only the Transparency International but there have been different international bodies including the World Bank and world capitals, which have been showing their concern over rising trend of corruption in Pakistan under the Gilani's regime. It was mounting corruption and extremely bad governance, which even dithered the outside world to offer cash to Pakistan during 2010 and 2011 floods, which devastated different parts of Pakistan and affected millions of people.
At home the corruption became a fashion in such a shameless manner that even the cabinet ministers started openly pointing fingers at each other and even at the highest levels including the prime minister. Some even approached the Supreme Court but despite all this, corruption remained the hallmark of the present regime, which instead of curbing it started defending it in the name of democracy.
Just one example: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi, who was sacked in 2010 for corruption, remains in jail. He is allegedly involved in accepting kick back in arranging residential accommodation for thousands of Pakistani Haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia. According to a Federal Investigation Agency lawyer Kazmi has assets beyond his declared sources of income and an amount of 30,000 Pounds Sterling was in his foreign accounts.
A new prime will remain under pressure
It is unlikely that the current confrontation between the judiciary and the US-client Zardari regime will be resolved and a new prime minister would face the same pressure from the judiciary over the Swiss cases. "Whoever becomes prime minister will be told by the court to write the letter. So it has to be someone who will resist writing the letter," said Chaudhry Faisal Hussain, a lawyer. "It's a question of the survival of the president."
The Pakistan People's Party has claimed that the president has constitutional immunity from prosecution both in Pakistan and abroad, so the letter also would be unconstitutional.
Many believe that the only way out of the political and constitutional impasse is through early elections, which seem increasingly likely to be called before the next scheduled vote in February 2013, perhaps as soon as this fall.
The Supreme Court verdict came at a time when the country is facing serious economic problems and witnesses massive violent demonstrations against power shortages throughout Pakistan. Pakistan is apparently heading towards an all out civil war.
In Punjab, where many areas are without electricity for 12-18 hours a day, the violent protests have attacked the houses of several parliamentarians from the ruling Pakistan People's Party, accusing the party of indifference while the energy crisis mounts. Punjab is home to more than half the country's 180 million people. Demonstrators also have burned and smashed up private property, cars, police stations and government offices.
Read Earlier stories:
Pakistan: The Herculean job of defending a corrupt president
Scandal escalates to defame the Chief Justice of Pakistan
Pre-election rigging in Pakistan: Zardari regime's plan to damage independent judiciary unveiled
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.