THE decision of the Speaker of the National Assembly that no question of disqualification has arisen following Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s conviction by the Supreme Court has further insulated Mr Gilani from legal sanction. Make no mistake about it, Fehmida Mirza’s decision, for all its appeal to legalese, is a decidedly political decision. But perhaps it is difficult to expect anything else in a case whose origins lie more in the political domain than the legal. The timing of the decision is also political: had she not issued her ruling at this point, the 30-day deadline under Article 63(2) of the constitution would have expired and a decision on the prime minister’s disqualification would have automatically passed on to the Election Commission of Pakistan. Arguably, with the prime minister’s appeal yet to be heard by the SC, the speaker’s 30-day deadline to issue a ruling may not have even begun — but if the ECP moved to take up the matter in the absence of a ruling by the speaker, the government would have had yet another fight on its hands in trying to wrest the matter back from it. Ms Mirza’s ruling has ensured that the ECP cannot now take up the matter without judicial intervention.

The legal thicket from here on becomes even more complicated. Presumably any citizen has the right to move the superior judiciary against the speaker’s decision and will find any number of grounds to challenge it, not least that the speaker has chosen to base her ruling on the charges framed against the prime minister and not the judgment handed down by the SC. But if the courts were to be moved to take up the case, the government would almost certainly argue that the speaker’s decision is covered by parliamentary privilege under Article 69 of the constitution which ousts judicial oversight of parliamentary procedure and business. That could take the matter back to the original question raised by the so-called Swiss letter and presidential immunity: if the court has one interpretation of the law and the government a different one and neither side budges, then whose interpretation de facto wins the day?

Much will depend on the pace of the government’s appeal. If the appeal is filed, the SC will announce a date for the first hearing and at the latter will indicate how quickly it hopes to proceed. Those decisions will give a sense of whether another judiciary-executive standoff is brewing and if so, how quickly. All of this was avoidable, of course, if politics and the law had not been treated as so interchangeable by both sides.

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Comments (20)

Khalid Mahmood
May 26, 2012 4:33 am
"All of this was avoidable, of course, if politics and the law had not been treated as so interchangeable by both sides." Your comment reflects as if the Supreme Court has vendetta against the Government. This is palpable wrong.
Afzal Mahmood
May 26, 2012 5:25 am
Unfortunately law and politics has been mixed by politicians and even by those who are supposed to tread just in the lines of law.
Shoaib Ahmad
May 26, 2012 7:51 am
The speaker is not the person who to decide the eligibility of PM as a member of NA but she is to just consider that whether question has arisen are not? And is there any doubt of question arisen if the apex court has written in its verdict that he ridiculed and likely to have consequences of 63.1(g). There is no big logic required to understand; the question still lies there despite the speaker's apparently biased ruling. Shoaib Ahmad
M. Anwar Qureshi
May 26, 2012 8:29 am
Ruling of Speaker NA is of political nature; she avoided to take into consideration "conviction" of PM under Contempt of Court Law which could have disqualified him for 5-years for ridiculing the judiciary and disobeying to revive the Swiss $ laundering case. Non filing of appeal before the SC of Pakistan, the Short Order as well as the detailed Judgment will attain finality and will hold against PM. In any case, whosoever will approach SC for clarification of current situation that order would be final and will supersede the Speaker's Ruling. PPP is looking for another Shaheed.
May 26, 2012 8:54 am
I am glad to read that you also view the Speaker's decision as politically motivated. However, I disagree that the Supreme court has political agendas. Come what may, the PPP led government is bent upon thumbing its nose at the Supreme court and denigrate the constitution, which it would like us to believe it's protecting. They have clearly shown that all they want to do is politics and no governing. Therefore, to save the state and consequently, the constitution, the Supreme court, regardless of the outcome, should invoke article 190 and call in the armed forces for assistance. This is far better than to allow the country to slide into chaos to the degree that a full military takeover becomes inevitable; which would spell disaster for the country. Long live Pakistan!
Jalbani Baloch
May 26, 2012 9:02 am
The decisions of supreme court is binding on the government, and it should implement it in letter and spirit. The PM, as a matter of respect to the judiciary, should withdraw from the position of prime ministership. it will strengthen his political image, and let his party, choose another leader of the house. The new commer will surely act on the same party line, till the tenure of the govt. will come to an end with no winner and no loser in the game. Alternatively, the PM should prefer an appeal for review of the deicision by a full-court, otherwise, if he continued on the self-interpretation of the current decision, as opined by the Speaker of the National Assembly, he shall be the big loser and shall be out of politics for a couple of years.
May 26, 2012 9:24 am
don't mixed the politics and law, plz try to save pak.
May 26, 2012 9:47 am
One cannoy go on arguing about the tussel between law and politics, when the country's stability is being eroded by the prevailing politically motivatedl anarchy.
May 26, 2012 9:51 am
Speaker has just assumed the role of judiciary which is not under any article of the constitution. Speaker's post is a constitutional one and relates to Parliament only NOT courts. Speaker is not a judge.
Khalid Mahmood
May 26, 2012 10:50 am
The law and politics are inseparable but the Supreme Court stands heads and shoulders above the Executive branch of Government morally and in terms of legal and Constitutional interpretation competence and authority.
May 26, 2012 11:34 am
What a joke ... the Supreme Court should now invoke article 190.
Anjum Arshi
May 26, 2012 11:36 am
So what does it all mean to me? Why should I care? I don't have a steady job and my business is going down the drain. My life and property are not secure. I suffer from load shedding and extortion. To me, all this is so remote and theoretical... Tell me this: How this government and this supreme court are any different from all previous governments and supreme courts?
mohammad mazhar
May 26, 2012 11:40 am
judiciary and exectives opposing to each other
May 26, 2012 1:09 pm
What do you expect from these politicians, they have no morals and will keep on ruling and plundering the poor country.
Khalid Mahmood
May 26, 2012 1:21 pm
Law and politics are inseparable but the view of the Supreme Court must prevail. However, the Speaker's decision not to disqualify the Prime Minister and the latter's decision not to appeal the conviction against him, might well mean the end of the Swiss cases being prosecuted now or ever. This raises an important question: Has the Supreme Courts proceedings unwittingly led to the protection of the President against his alleged money laundering cases in the Swiss Courts?
May 26, 2012 2:09 pm
May 26, 2012 3:02 pm
I agree with Khalid Mahmood --- editorial blame on Supreme Court is totally wrong.
May 26, 2012 3:57 pm
My reading of the appropriate paragraph of the constitution is that if the matter is not referred to the ECP within a month then ECP can take action and the matter has not been referred to ECP though the speaker seems to have sent a note of her views to the Supreme Court (nor it is going to be appealed). This differs from your interpretation. Perhaps, someone with greater expertise would enlighten your readers.
May 27, 2012 2:23 am
All these problems will go away if honest and capable people are elected.Or else, we will keep going in circles.
Faqir Ahmad Paracha
June 2, 2012 12:49 pm
The Speaker has come to the conclusion that no question of disqualification has arisen following the conviction of the Prime Minister by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.This might have saved the Prime Minister for the time being , but what would happen at the time of his application to the Election Commission at the next elections. obviously his conviction has not been and cannot be nullified by the Speaker. As such he, would not be eligible for a seat in the National or Provincial Assemblies.
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