Thursday, August 16, 2012

One letter and Pakistani politics

How may Prime Ministers resigned from their post for refusing to write a letter? Well, in Pakistan one person already resigned, most probably second person is on the way and we are not sure about the third.

It’s all about a letter which Supreme Court of Pakistan asked the government to sent to the Swiss authorities.Well, by hearing the word Swiss you can guess the issue. This may be one of the most difficult letter any human being ever tried to write. It looks like for Pakistan government writing a letter to Swiss authorities is much more difficult than making a deal with India!!!

National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)

All the problems started when former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf signed National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) on 5 October 2007 which granted amnesty to political workers, politicians and bureaucrats accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism between 1 January 1986, and 12 October 1999.

This ordinance effectively put a good number of cases in Cold Storage. Swiss authorities also shelved the case against Zardari in June 2008 when he became the president of Pakistan. From that time onwards Pakistan government is insisting on the full immunity president enjoys because of his post.

Moving to the court

However on 16 December 2009, Supreme Court of Pakistan's 17 member bench, headed by Chief Justice (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, declared the ordinance null and void. As expected it was politically disastrous for the government to assume the ordinance void.

SC started asking the political leadership to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to proceed with the case (which was shelved earlier). However government didn't move and the SC of Pakistan started with the contempt of Court proceedings.

Supreme Court fights back

"In a ruling that added more chaos than clarity to an already messy and murky scenario, the Supreme Court handed down a symbolic punishment lasting less than a minute to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday, making him the first ever chief executive to be convicted for committing contempt." - Dawn April 12, 2012. (#3)

Dismissal of Premier Gilani

Well, Gilani paid the price when SC on June 19 dismissed Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister after convicting him of contempt in April for refusing to reopen the multi-million-dollar case against the president.

After much confusion Raja Pervez Ashraf was elected as the new PM. Now he too is facing the same issue. On June 27, SC of Pakistan gave two weeks for the new PM to indicate whether he would ask Swiss authorities to for reopening a corruption case against President Zardari.

He needs to appear before the SC on August 27 when the NRO implementation case will resume again. Well let’s wait and watch what will happen. In between SC also scuttled a new law passed by parliament regarding to the 'Contempt of Court laws' as unconstitutional. Here court also faced criticism for encroaching in to legislature's turf.

It is yet to see, how many people Zardari will sacrifice before this term of government will end - If this government can finish 5 year term then it will become the first elected government in the history of Pakistan to finish the term. As long as the hold of Zardari over PPP is strong this set up may work. However through the disqualification of each premier PPP will lose one sure seat in the next elections.

Will Zardari able to stop the process of writing the letter?

In anyway Zardari can't postpone the activity of writing the letter for a long time. In the next election the prospect of PPP's victory is not so high. If any other party came to power they will be ready to sent more than one letter to Swiss authorities (depends on how many people in the next cabinet enjoyed the sweetness of NRO). Unfortunately, this three way fight between Judiciary, Executive, and Legislature will effectively erode the powers of all.


The ironic thing is that in the middle of Chronic power shortages, every day bomb blasts, slipping away of north-western provinces to insurgents’ hands, nose diving economy etc Pakistanis are forced to see letter writing as the important occupation of their government!!!



1. National Reconciliation Ordinance
2. SC issues show-cause notice to PM Ashraf
3. Down but not out
4. Profile: Yousuf Raza Gilani

Photo Courtesy: Supreme Court of Pakistan website (modified for this article)

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