Gilani to Appear Before Pakistan Supreme Court Jan 19 on Contempt Charges; Early Elections Likely

Pakistan’s Supreme Court stopped just short of declaring Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani unfit for office today, and instead found him in contempt of court. He is to appear personally before the court on January 19 to answer the charges. He could be thrown out of office at that proceeding. In the meantime, the Guardian is reporting that early elections are beginning to look likely. This would appear to be the only way out for a government that is facing a military that doesn’t want it in office along with two serious proceedings against it underway in the Supreme Court.

The Express Tribune reports on the contempt finding:

The Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a contempt of court notice to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Monday and directed him to appear personally before the bench on January 19, Express News reported.

During the proceedings, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Fasih Bokhari tendered an unconditional apology to the court, on which the court said that a written apology should be submitted.

Speaking to the media after the hearing, Federal Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio said that he will inform the government about the court’s verdict and admitted that the contempt notice is not something to be taken lightly.

A bit further along in the article, the Express News describes the six options that the Supreme Court had outlined last week as its possible courses of action on the NRO case. Here is the entry on a contempt finding:

Option 2: Contempt proceedings

The bench said the prime minister and the law minister could face contempt proceedings for “persistently, obstinately and contumaciously resisting” to implement the judgment. A possible conviction may entail a disqualification from being elected as a member of parliament for five years, the bench warned.

In a meeting of Zardari and Gilani’s PPP political party, it appears that Gilani has offered to resign if that is what is needed for the country:

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has offered to step down in the wake of the worsening political situation in the country, sources informed Express News on Monday.

/snip/

Gilani also agreed to appear before the Supreme Court after he was issued a contempt of court notice today during the hearing of the NRO implementation case.

An important vote is also scheduled for tonight in the National Assembly:

Sources say that the opposition will re-emphasise on holding early elections, while both the government and the opposition will show their support for the pro-democracy resolution in the National Assembly session which will be held later during the day.

In an article last night, the Guardian outlined some of the situation regarding the possibility of early elections:

Pakistan‘s embattled government is preparing to call early elections in an attempt to find a way out of the political crisis that has paralysed the country, as a confidence vote in parliament and critical court cases loom on Monday.

At war with the courts, the opposition and the military establishment, President Asif Zardari’s administration has agreed to an opposition demand to hold early national polls, but only after the separate election takes place in March for the Senate, the upper house of parliament, according to members of the ruling coalition and its advisers.

If the political parties cannot find a way out of the crisis, the threat of a coup remains, analysts warn.

The precise timing of early elections is still very much under discussion:

An early election should placate the courts and military. A supposedly neutral caretaker government would have to be installed to oversee a three-month election period.

Another coalition member said: “It is 100% certain that there will be elections in 2012. The only solution is elections. It doesn’t matter whether they are held in June or October.”

Imran Khan has chimed in on the call for early elections, saying that they already should have been held:

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said on Sunday that if the government was truly democratic, then it would have held elections by now.

Had the current government come into power through the people and not the NRO, elections would have been held by now, Khan said during his address in Kahuta.

Quoting Supreme Court’s earlier statement about Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani being a “dishonest person”, Imran hit out at the premier, saying if Gilani had some ‘shame,’ he would have held the elections. “There is a deficit of shame,” Khan added.

Meanwhile, Geo TV has put up a recent report that suggests Gilani will not resign:

Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio said Monday that Yousuf Raza Gilani will remain the prime minister of Pakistan.

Chandio further said that members of parliament would accompany Prime Minister Gilani when he appears before the Supreme Court on January 19.

/snip/

Commenting on the call by opposition parties to call early elections the Law Minister said that the government would announce a schedule when need be.

The situation in Pakistan remains quite fragile, but the move to change tonight’s confidence vote in Zardari into a vote on democracy generally appears to have been a good move. By maneuvering all sides into reaffirming their support for democracy, it would appear that there will at least be sufficient time to negotiate a peaceful transition to elections and a new government. Setting the precedent of changing governments through called elections rather than a military coup will be a tremendous accomplishment for the people of Pakistan.

Crucial groundwork for a peaceful outcome was laid in meetings between the government and the military on Saturday, as Kayani and Zardari met face to face for 45 minutes prior to a previously planned meeting government and military figures:

Prime Minister Gilani apparently extended an olive branch to the army as mediation efforts by senior politicians and ‘foreign friends’ got into top gear.

Hours before the DCC meeting, Army chief Gen Kayani had, in a surprise move, called on President Asif Ali Zardari. The one-on-one meeting is said to have lasted 45 minutes, possibly laying the ground for a rapprochement.

The army, according to one of the mediators, is ready for backing off, but wants the government to make the first move towards peace. This possibly explains the conciliatory stance taken by Mr Gilani at the meeting and devoting significant part of his opening speech to the civilian-military tiff which, otherwise, was not part of the agenda.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Update:  Dawn reports that the pro-democracy movement has passed in the National Assembly:

The National Assembly on Monday endorsed a resolution in favour of democracy originally moved by Awami National Party (ANP) leader Asfandyar Wali Khan, DawnNews reported.

“I respect the courts, and I would appear before the Supreme Court on Jan 19,” said the prime minister amid applause from assembly members.

“When I became prime minister, what was my first decision? I ordered the freedom of the judges under house arrest,” said Gilani. “We are responsible members of the Parliament and we are committed to democracy.”

/snip/

Meanwhile, members of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and Aftab Sherpao staged a walk out of the assembly in protest.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
8 replies
  1. sona says:

    jim

    i’m very curious as to what sort of a constitution pakistan has for its democracy – it is usual to exempt the executive head, however nominal in a parliamentary system, from such prosecutions
    also, gilani is saying he is accountable to the parliament, not the judiciary and that is common practice too
    if pakistan is a parliamentary democracy, and that is huge if, the military should not have the brazen audacity to act against either the executive (president) or the legislature (parliament)
    and the judiciary should not lend itself to playing political games

    appointment of zardari on the basis of a hand written will was always problematic and things are starting to unravel, sooner than i expected

    the bhutto family into which zardari married has always played dirty – benazir’s father, zulfiqar, the founder of the ppp, was instrumental in denying east pakistan, now bangladesh, the electoral mandate that the awami league won and what followed is history but that history also sent 10m+ refugees across the border to india and at least 6m lost their lives

    but in all this where does uncle sam stand? the State dept has been silent – reminds me the lion behind the perspex in this you tube clip:


  2. Petrocelli says:

    @Jim White:

    Perfect answer, Jim !

    The most troubling trend has always been how many people fled Pakistan and then pledged support for the Bhutto regime, which is not better than a military regime.

    I sincerely hope that Imran Khan is meeting with the Brits, Yanks, Chinese & Russians to convince him that he is capable of running the country. There is no greater unifying force in Pak politics today, than Imran Khan.

  3. sona says:

    @Jim White:
    perhaps but it is not a democracy as i understand it
    there is unlikely to be another military coup since the military posturing is aimed at deflecting the drubbing it got over the obl episode
    my real concern is letting pakistan despoil afghanistan to follow the route to self destruction that it has charted for itself
    my real question is what uncle sam plans to do about it – act like the lion in that clip or exercise some leadership in extricating afghanistan from the pakistani military and isi plots for destabilisation?
    let’s be clear, pakistani foreign policy relies on destabilising its neighbours – neither rational nor ethical and for that matter counterproductive to its own nationhood and national interests

  4. MadDog says:

    An update on the Memogate saga from Pakistan Today:

    “Haqqani’s lawyer dilly-dallies as Ijaz fails to turn up

    As the main character in the memo scandal, Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz, failed to appear before the judicial commission probing the controversy on Monday under the pretext of a “precarious political situation” in Pakistan, Zahid Bukhari, the counsel for former ambassador Husain Haqqani, continued with his attempts ostensibly aimed at stopping Ijaz from coming to Pakistan by asking the commission to bar Ijaz from leaving Pakistan until the completion of investigation and supporting an application that sought to register a case against the US national under Article 6 of the constitution for ‘high treason’.

    Ijaz was supposed to appear before the commission on Monday but his counsel Akram Sheikh said there was political and institutional instability in the country amidst rumours of change in army command, which forced his client not to come to Pakistan. He said statements regarding registration of treason cases against Ijaz and the sacking of the defence secretary were also causes of concern for his client…”

  5. sona says:

    @MadDog:
    ijaz is the drawcard for the country’s military-isi backroom coup now unfolding – interesting that he feels threatened – the military-isi complex is unable to guarantee his safety?
    this is so farcical and tragic that this passes for politics in pakistan

  6. sona says:

    @petrocelli:
    imran khan really has got neither the brains nor the wherewithal to set up such meetings – he is a populist but if you read some of his demagoguery, he appears to be clueless but he is sincere and his following is more attributable to the hopelessness that many pakistanis feel about their current dire predicament

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