As the deadline, July 12, for the Prime Minister to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases of money laundering against President Asif Zardari was fast approaching, the government rushed through the National Assembly late Monday night, a bill exempting “a public official” from committing contempt of court in the discharge of his official duties. The need to protect PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf from the fate of his predecessor was considered compelling enough for the rule requiring proposed legislations to pass the scrutiny of the relevant standing committee of the House to be suspended. The main opposition party PML-N loudly protested and walked out; its leaders Khwaja Sa’ad Rafiq and Khurram Dastagir termed it an attempt at tying the hands of the Supreme Court by providing a shield against Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s expected refusal to comply with its wishes in the case of the letter. Ministers Khurshid Shah and Farooq Naek’s view that the government was only removing certain lacunae in the existing law and had no intention of picking up confrontation with the judiciary is simple balderdash, considering the timing. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has already preemptively stated, no doubt, with this law and the contemplated dual nationality bill in mind, that any act of Parliament that is repugnant to the Constitution would be struck down.

The bill has been challenged in the Supreme Court and with the court mind already known after the Chief Justice’s remarks last week, it may not be long before it is declared ultra vires. On the other hand, there is hardly any likelihood that the PPP would review its decision that any Prime Minister under the setup led by it would refuse to comply with the court orders in respect of this issue that directly affects President Zardari. There are fears that in the prevailing situation is that the process that led to the disqualification of Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani would be drastically cut short in the case of the present Prime Minister, however this is unlikely to happen.

However, the scenario speaks of the sad state of the ruling leadership’s craving favour with the President at all costs, even if that means stooping to attempt a limiting of the authority of the Supreme Court that might hurt the long-term interests of the country. It bears repeating that the crossroads at which the nation stands today, challenged by a host of problems, it is ruinous to indulge in the insane game of setting one institution against another. This is no time for confrontation. To overcome the current crisis-ridden situation, what we need is a harmonious and smooth functioning of all the organs of the state, each pursuing its role defined in the Constitution.