Published in The Nation newspaper on 23-Jan-2012
Back in 1997, Nawaz Sharif, then Prime Minister, appeared before the Supreme Court in a contempt case when he was summoned. I note with interest that during this national crisis, I wrote nothing, because I suppose I was afraid of being inveigled for contempt myself. But I did write the following, which is relevant today in view of the reply the Prime Minister gave to the Supreme Court in his appearance, where by arguing that his government was writing no letters to the Swiss authorities, despite the Supreme Court’s order, because the President enjoyed immunity:
“I’m not a lawyer, and I look to the courts to tell me what is the law. Judges are human, and might be wrong, but after all, who is to judge them? That’s why the only perfect justice is Divine Justice, which will only be available in the Hereafter.” I would like to add, with the benefit of hindsight, and claiming the privilege granted by the intervening years, that there have been many judgements showing that a president cannot claim privilege for his actions even if they were committed while in office, let alone actions supposedly committed before becoming President. Of course, none of those judgments were delivered in Pakistan, and thus would not be binding precedents.
Of course, at the time Mian Nawaz appeared in court, neither Norway nor any other country had announced it had spies in Pakistan. Everyone thinks it was a grudging admission, but hey, this is Norway! They must be boasting of the spies they have here. In fact, we should probably wait for Tuvalu, Upper Volta and Nicaragua, and every Pacific Island archipelago, every African, every Latin American, country begins to boast of its spies in Pakistan, and the wonderful work they are doing. Of course, Norway will try to say they don’t count, and only the countries in the NATO ISAF have spies in Pakistan, This might lead to the spectre of the Prime Minister appearing in the Supreme Court so that there could be something for the Norwegian spies to write about, and then put in their hollowed-out left boot heel for onward transmission to Oslo. However, he appeared out of respect for the Court, as he said, and as he always says. Of course, he’ll only say so, but won’t do what it says, not when that would affect the President.
Neither Nawaz nor Gilani seemed to profit from the example of the late Muhammad Ali, who used to harangue the court, beginning, “Judge saab!” That is a good thing, for it shows they both had reasonably good lawyers. Only judges in films tolerate being lectured. And judges in real, as opposed to reel, life, don’t look embarrassed.
One big difference between Mian Nawaz and Mr Gilani is that the former did not go because he was protecting the President. It should be noted that the President was the late Farooq Leghari, so the PPP should pride itself on its members having elected the President whenever the Prime Minister has got to go to court. It seems as if, just as much as you can only be accepted as a politician if one has gone to jail, it seems as if you can’t be a good Prime Minister unless you have appeared in court on a contempt charge. Of course, it beats becoming President, where it seems you have to be a retired judge, COAS, or have cases registered against you, which you want to claim immunity from. The immunity is a major attraction now that the 18th Amendment has taken away all those powers that President had, such as sacking the government.
I won’t want to go down that path, of removing the presidential immunity but giving the power to dissolve. For one, the President would once again be the threat he was. And the PPP has found out the hard way that even if it elects its own President, he will dissolve its government. Remember Leghari. If the dissolution power had remained, Zardari would have dissolved the Gilani government by now.
I presume, even though he can’t dissolve, he would have examined the
Prime Minister’s statement closely. If he had said the wrong thing, the President could have had embarrassing letters written about him. And by the way, Switzerland is probably happy with the situation, because it means that it can hold on to the money in question. And isn’t Mansoor Ejaz in Switzerland? Anyway, he obtained his visa for Pakistan in London, where nobody has any accounts of interest to any court.
Mansoor Ejaz is scheduled to testify before the Supreme Court, and though it seems he has it in for Hussain Haqqani, he might end up involving the President. He runs the risk of buffalo theft charges, for the operation is being supervised by the Sole Warrior on Terror, Rehman Malik. Malik moved from the Protectorate of Immigrants to the FIA, before coming into politics, and it seems he once hankered to be a cop. And everyone knows (even cops) that cops prefer above all else to investigate a cattle theft case. Whatever the result of the case, recovering the case property gives them mental tranquillity. Mansoor Ejaz might be willing to risk many things, but a cattle theft charge? It could cost him his US citizenship, for they prefer sexual assault charges, as laid against Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Mansoor Ejaz should rest assured that Malik can arrange for a little boy, if Mansoor feels that would play better in the USA.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 23-Jan-2012