The Supreme Court's disqualification of YousafRazaGilani as prime minister has brought us to an unprecedented state of affairs in Pakistan's history. The court has no doubt played its part in dislodging prime ministers before, but in the past it was acting, almost without exception, at the behest of someone else - usually the army. This time, the court is acting on its own, without any coordination with the so-called establishment, as is evident from the very facts at hand: the court has effectively brought the constitutional machinery of this country to a standstill, but the establishment - neither the army nor any political party presumably backed by the army - is immediately capable of replacing President AsifZardari's government.The result is dreadful suspense and absurdity.
Before we proceed, please recall that Zardari will remain president until September 2013 unless impeached earlier by two-thirds of the parliament, Chaudhry will remain chief justice until December 2013 unless impeached earlier by his brother judges in the Supreme Judicial Council, and the present parliament can sit until March 2013 and, if it does, the next elections will have to be held within two months after March.
Let me first explain the procedural aspects at hand: we are stuck in a futile to-and-fro between the Supreme Court and President Zardari, and given how things stand, we may very well be stuck with it till September next year.
Zardari, for various reasons you can well imagine, is not going to call early elections; his only option is to appoint a new prime minister. Indeed, he seems well-prepared for it. The court, on the other hand, is not going to flinch: they'll be after the new prime minister as soon as one is appointed, and it'll be a matter of weeks before the next prime minister is sent packing as well. Then another appointment followed by another packing, and so on in a circle. So, does the 1973 Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan provide a way out of this situation?
Unfortunately,no.For one, this trench warfare is the very creation of the constitution; how can it have the solution for it? And two: the Supreme Court, bound byits own precedents, has already illustrated for the benefit of the general public what the constitution means to them, which is: we want the prime minister to write the letter to the Swiss but all we can do is disqualify him for contempt of court on grounds of non-compliance; and barring an act of God, such non-compliance is almost guaranteed, as Zardari has also in parallel illustrated to the general public.
So we might very well be, indeed are more likely that not, headed towards a year of monthly prime ministers. So much for the constitutional procedure.
(There are two more outs in the constitution but not particularly useful at the moment. The first, amending the constitution to pack the court, will not be permitted the court on grounds of the basic structure theory and whatnot, as it had threatened to do, with enviable success, in the 18th Amendment case. The second is impeachment and removal of President Zardari by two-thirds of a joint sitting of the parliament, but obviously this is not possible until after the general elections.)
Now, judging from historical trends alone, one may safely speculate that Gilani's disqualification is some sort of conspiracy to dislodge the incumbent government and bring in either the army or one of the opposition parties with the help of the army.
This speculation however cannot be true of the army as things stand today. General Kayani is in no position to add a major civilian job to his pre-existing workload concerning the war on terror.
The speculation however may theoretically be true of opposition parties supported by the establishment. Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, together, could muster the two-thirds majority in the parliament to dislodge Zardari before September 2013. That would be some drama indeed.
Given the possibility of impeachment,Zardari would be even less inclined to announce early elections and would in fact delay as much as possible.
It seems Pakistan will be stuck in this situation until September 2013, or a few months less if the next parliament impeaches Zardari. Till then, till at least for next 8-9 months, there is no solution to this problem, apparently just like load-shedding.
The writer is a LUMS law graduate and a Fulbright scholar