LAHORE - Makhdoom Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, who as prime minister had been given a unanimous vote of confidence by all parties in the National Assembly in the last week of March 2008, was unanimously consigned to the history by a three-member bench of the Supreme Court yesterday. He defied court order to show loyalty to the party leadership and paid the price.  

He had been administered oath of office by Gen Pervez Musharraf, who the PPP alleges was responsible for the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto.  

The 16th prime minister of the country and first from the Seraiki belt, ruled for a longer period compared to most of his predecessors, is the first head of government who lost his office after being disqualified by the Supreme Court. Prime ministers Muhammad Khan Junejo, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had been dismissed by the then presidents, who had the constitutional power to do so, on various charges.

The president’s power to sack a prime minister or a National Assembly, which had been used many a time in the past, both justly and unjustly, was taken away through the 18th Amendment.

The court order was not unexpected for Mr Gilani. His lawyers did their best to have him disqualified, just as Mr Bhutto’s counsel had left no stone unturned to take their client to the gallows by politicising the case.

The lawyers who advised Mr Gilani not to challenge the seven-member bench’s April 26 disqualification order and instead oppose the petitions against the NA Speaker’s ruling are responsible for the humiliation the leader from Multan had to face on Tuesday.   

Mr Gilani had said on March 15 at a ceremony at Islamia University, Bahawalpur, that writing a letter to the Swiss authorities against President Zardari, as ordered by the apex court, would amount to violating the Constitution, which he emphasised is an offence punishable with death.

He further said that not sending a letter to the Swiss authorities would mean committing contempt of court, for which there is only six months’ imprisonment. “Prison is better than going to the gallows”, said the leader from Multan, implying that he has chosen lesser punishment for himself.

Although the professional worth of the arguments given by Mr Gilani’s lawyers in the Supreme Court can be judged by the legal fraternity, they looked ridiculous even to the common man. For example, one lawyer contended that the NA Speaker can set aside an order of the apex court and this is what has been done in the present case. He further said that less than two years of sentence will not lead to the disqualification of his client and on this yardstick Mr Gilani is qualified to continue to hold the office of the prime minister as he was sentenced to 30 seconds only.

These arguments showed as if the NA Speaker is more powerful than the Supreme Court.

A still more ludicrous was the contention that a prime minister , if not sentenced to full two years, can rule the country even from a jail.

At one stage it was indicated as if the NA Speaker will call the chief justice to the assembly (to ask questions).  The ‘veiled message’ did not work as the chief justice readily agreed to appear before the speaker on being ‘summoned’.  

Yet another submission was that the NA Speaker’s ruling cannot be challenged in any court of law. However, nobody represented the speaker, because of which the justification for her ruling in favour of Mr Gilani remained unexplained.

The landmark SC order against Mr Gilani clearly means that all these arguments have been rejected by the bench.

In the court, the prime minister’s lawyer did talk about the president’s immunity from prosecution but did not come up with supportive arguments. The mere reference to the relevant article without any explanation as to whether the immunity has to be claimed or it is automatic was part of the strategy of Mr Gilani’s legal team.  

They deliberately avoided any discussion on the subject as any opinion to the contrary expressed by the bench could have created problems for the president, whose sole defence from prosecution in Swiss cases is the immunity clause.  

The court would have told the PM’s lawyers why it had ordered their client to write a letter against the president despite the immunity clause.

Interestingly, the NA speaker did send a written reply to the SC about her ruling, but did not ask anyone to represent her. As a result, a number of questions the court could ask about the rationale of the ruling could not be asked.

The period of Mr Gilani will be remembered for rampant corruption, torturous loadshedding, back-breaking price hike, joblessness, misgovernance, unrest in Balochistan, collapse of the PIA, Steel Mills, Pakistan Railways, WAPDA and many other prestigious state institutions.

During the Gilani rule, the nation was lumbered with over $20 billion foreign loans but still the economic situation did not improve.

Ironically, even in the fifth year into power the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues complained that they had inherited a bad economy, which was a misstatement. The situation during the Musharraf era was much better.

The CIA raid that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, attacks on the GHQ and the naval base in Karachi also took place during the Gilani rule.

His government also failed to arrest the killers of Ms Benazir Bhutto. Arrest warrants for Gen Musharraf were issued, but no step was taken to bring the former president to justice.

There are allegations that Mr Gilani and other members of his family made millions and millions of rupees while in power.

It was also during the Gilani rule that a conspiracy was hatched against the armed forces and the nuclear programme of Pakistan. The country’s ambassador to US – Husain Haqqani – wrote a memorandum to US authorities to seek their help to avert a likely military coup against the PPP regime after the OBL episode.

Although Haqqani denied, a special commission said the memo had been authored by Pakistan’s ambassador to the US.  The commission also held that Haqqani was not loyal to Pakistan.

An NFC award, provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan, 18, 19th and 20th constitutional amendments and the launch of a package for Balochistan are some of the achievements of the Gilani government.