Country without a PM

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar | Published:June 23, 2012 3:17 am

Country without a PM

For most of this week,Pakistan has been a parliamentary democracy without a prime minister. Yousuf Raza Gilani,Pakistan’s PM until June 19,was declared unfit to hold office by the country’s Supreme Court in a landmark judgment that pulled the rug from beneath Pakistan’s civilian government. The judgment renders Gilani ineligible to contest for any office for five years.

Dethroning Gilani was just the curtain raiser for the ongoing drama. With Gilani’s ouster came the opportunity to appoint his successor to head the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government in Islamabad. On day one after the judgment,senior PPP member Makhdoom Shahbuddin’s name was finalised. The next day,after he made a speech thanking the PPP and co-chair Asif Ali Zardari,the Supreme Court bench headed by the chief justice of Pakistan,Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry,issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Shahabuddin with retrospective effect in a case involving the illegal trade of drugs when he was health minister. The businessman who dealt with these drugs was Gilani’s son,against whom a case has been in the Supreme Court for weeks now. But Shahabuddin’s hopes of living in Islamabad’s plush PM House were dashed in less than 24 hours.

Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar,formerly defence minister,was the next name doing the rounds,but this was overtaken by the names of Raja Pervez Ashraf and Qamar Zaman Kaira. While Kaira is said to be one of the most upright members of the PPP,Ashraf has faced his fair share of corruption charges. Until early 2011,he was Pakistan’s minister for water and power,a portfolio he had to quit after corruption cases pertaining to rental power plants began to be heard by the Supreme Court. The websites of all the newspapers reported on June 22 that the PPP and its allies had unanimously nominated Ashraf for the post of PM. But only time will tell whether Ashraf can actually move in to the PM House.

Even a member of the opposition in Pakistan’s National Assembly nurtured dreams of becoming PM. Ditto for the leader of a party that has been a difficult ally for the PPP. Daily Times reported on June 22: “Sardar Mehtab Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also filed his nomination papers. JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman also jumped into the race for premiership… despite having a meagre parliamentary strength of eight members in the assembly.”

By the way

MULTAN,the constituency that Gilani won from,identified as NA-151 by the Election Commission of Pakistan,fell vacant after he ceased to be the PM. A by-election will take place there on July 19,reported the website of The News on June 22. The Express Tribune reported on June 20: “Fiza Gilani,daughter of Yousuf Raza Gilani,might contest the by-elections for her father’s seat… Sikandar Bosan,also contesting the seat,had shifted his allegiance from Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI),and the latter has decided to boycott the by-election. However,Bosan told Express News that he will not leave the constituency empty and either he or his brother will contest the elections on the seat. Malik Ishaq Bucha will also be contesting for the seat from PML-N.”

Right to defend

AMIDST this drama,the case against the chief justice’s son could be strengthening. Daily Times reported on June 21 that the attorney-general of Pakistan had directed the country’s anti-graft body,the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to investigate the bribery case involving the chief justice’s son,Arsalan Ifitkhar,and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz. “NAB Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari… decided to constitute a joint investigation team comprising officers of the NAB,the FIA,the police and experts from banking and legal sectors to investigate the Arsalan Iftikhar case.” Meanwhile,Dawn’s website reported on June 22 that during the hearing of the case,Chaudhry made an official announcement to recuse himself from the bench. The Express Tribune had reported on June 22 that Riaz was unable to find a lawyer to defend himself because the district bar associations of Islamabad and Rawalpindi discouraged lawyers from advocating his case.

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