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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Crisis, What Crisis?

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 03, 2012

It is almost laughable to hear many self-made ‘pundits’ and so-called ‘senior analysts’ opine on the recent conviction of the prime minister. Some are giving their statements on the supremacy of the law, and others are giving the nation lessons about standards of morality. What a bunch of very comical people. The above-listed reasons should adequately demonstrate why I abstain from the otherwise idiot of a box. Yes, even I made an exception, and succumbed to some of these great shows of ‘national significance’.

The news was being closely monitored and anticipated by the entire country. A short order by the apex court created such a long list of experts on everything. Oh my God! The only sane voices that I perhaps heard were from Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and Ms Asma Jahangir. First, let us revisit 2009, when the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) was declared unconstitutional. If my memory serves me right, there were 800 plus beneficiaries of that infamous ordinance. The nation has been beaming in on one particular individual ever since, and about the rest no one knows or perhaps cares about. Why, what is their status?

Speaking of that one particular individual, the elected president of Pakistan, while in office he enjoys absolute immunity from any prosecution; hence, he is still the president. If this were not the case, he would have vacated the office back in 2009. One has to then ask a simple question, why waste useful time and positive energy on any argument when all and sundry had agreed on this issue in 2009. Ah, here comes the kicker. The president may not have the ‘absolute immunity’ in any cases against him outside Pakistan. This refers to an alleged Swiss account and perhaps the alleged sum that the president has supposedly stashed in that account.

If a leading newspaper of Pakistan is to be given any credence, the Swiss prosecutors closed the inquiry against the president of Pakistan in April 2008. The prime minister was asked by the Supreme Court to revive the inquiry against the president by writing to the Swiss prosecutors. The prime minister, according to his interpretation of the Constitution, refrained as he felt the presidential immunity trumped any such request.

So let us put this scenario in an objective line of thinking and see if this is really the crime, and about which the entire brouhaha is continuing. If the sitting president is immune to prosecution within Pakistan, then how can a request to a foreign nation to probe against him become constitutional? Very respectfully, in a society of laws, citizens — whether a commoner or a prime minister — have the right to question the constitutionality of the law. If the prime minister questioned the constitutionality of the law, by not initiating the probe overseas, he was found in contempt.

Barrister Ahsan’s plea has to be given some serious consideration. Ahsan’s argument is in essence a disagreement with the august court because it found the prime minister guilty on certain charges that were not part of his original indictment of February 2012. Secondly, he is absolutely on the mark when he argues that it is unprecedented to try or intend to try a sitting head of state in a domestic or foreign court. Ms Jahangir, a legal icon in her own right, has clearly stated that the honourable bench is in essence on trial here as well. The bench has to demonstrate its absolute impartiality and render decisions according to the Constitution of Pakistan.

The so-called pundits and analysts are hell bent on making this simple legal question of ‘rights and responsibilities’ into a so-called crisis of epic proportions. The ‘Armageddon’ of the law and the lawless. It is a shame that we have nightly opinion-makers who tend to give an absolutely unfair and biased take on this whole scenario. In any democratic system, all stakeholders tend to constantly struggle for their positions within the framework of the law. This is the beauty of a fair, unprejudiced and unbiased system.

Any convict has the right to an appeal and the prime minister is no exception. The loudmouth anchors and their panelists, who are giving the nation endless lectures on morality and moral grounds, ought to look at themselves very closely. The short order does not compel the prime minister to resign on any grounds — moral or legal. The process pertaining to his removal is explicitly defined within the constitution. To the political opportunists, one has to simply make a humble request. The elections are a few months down the road. Rather than wasting all their zeal and zest in manufacturing a so-called crisis, they should redirect their energies to their constituents. The nation needs a steady system of transfer of power, based on the will of the masses. The real judge of this government or any future ones is the 180 million people. Let them render their absolute and undeniable verdict.

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