MIAN DAWOOD

LAHORE – The PPP has decided not to appeal Yousuf Raza Gilani’s conviction, believing it could be harmful for the prime minister, leader of party’s present team of juristic jugglers revealed Saturday.

In his latest jural stunt, Aitzaz Ahsan, who – after Babar Awan’s demotion as chief legal aide to President Zardari and his associates – calls all the major legal shots in the party, told a press conference in all humbleness that it was a ‘consensual’ party decision.

Right from day one of PM’s conviction by the Supreme Court in contempt of court case over his refusal to write to Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against his party-boss President Asif Ali Zardari, Aitzaz has been saying he has a strong case against the conviction decision and he will surely file an appeal.

A man who touched pinnacles of fame owing to his role in the movement for restoration of judiciary, Aitzaz Ahsan, took another ugly about-turn when he told media persons at his residence that the only purpose of the movement was restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Earlier, like all other leaders of the movement, he had been saying they struggled for restoration of the judiciary.

“There are fears and a perception that the appeal will be harmful for the prime minister,” Aitzaz said while defending the political career of PPP’s ‘diehard worker’ who always proved his loyalty to President Zardari. However, the PM’s counsel in contempt case admitted that Gilani was a contemnor.

The 30-day time prescribed under the law to file appeal stood over on May 26 without any appeal being moved before the court. Aitzaz said Gilani had already informed him late Friday night about the decision against filing the appeal. The decision of not filing the appeal was made after thorough consultation among the PPP stalwarts, he added.

Declaring the decision of the national assembly speaker as the right one‚ the lawyer said Dr Fehmida Mirza reviewed the aspects of the case and decided not to forward the disqualification reference against the prime minister to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). He also supported Fehmida’s stance that office of the NA speaker was not supposed to function as mere a post office and that its role was not just forwarding the references to the election commission. He said election commission’s role had ended after speaker’s ruling. “The election commission’s doors are now closed,” Aitzaz said.

The lawyer claimed the appeal was ready, saying he had prepared an appeal containing 146 objections on the court ruling and he was ready to file it in the Supreme Court when PM Gilani called him late Friday and told him not to do so after the speaker’s ruling. But one of his close friends requesting anonymity told The Nation that no case for filing the appeal had been prepared.

“PM has been convicted on charges [that even had] not [been] framed against him,” Aitzaz said. There was a difference between the charges of contempt of court and those pertaining to ridiculing the court, and the court had not referred to any charges against the prime minister relating to defaming the judiciary, he added.

“The prime minister has served his sentence, but he has not been disqualified,” the lawyer reiterated. He maintained the prime minister could not be disqualified on the basis of a 30-second sentence. The apex court had announced verdict without giving any reason and the PPP didn’t accept the short judgment, Aitzaz Ahsan stressed. “[But] I can’t disclose the suggestions and advices given to PM Gilani regarding the legal stance on the case,” he said.

PM Gilani was convicted on April 26 for contempt of court. The main question that arose after his conviction was whether it meant automatic disqualification of the prime minister as a member of parliament or whether this would happen only if the national assembly speaker sent a disqualification reference to the ECP under article 63(2) of the constitution. However, on Thursday last, NA speaker refused to forward the disqualification case to the election commission by rejecting a reference sent to her office by Moulvi Iqbal Haider under clause (2) of article 63.

Aitzaz Ahsan’s statement shows that the PPP was just making a fool out of the people and the opposition parties who were demanding resignation from Gialni over his conviction. Sources said the PPP leadership had on May 8, the very day of the detailed SC judgment in the contempt case, decided not to file an appeal and that Speaker Fehmida Mirza would not send the reference to election commission.