Saved by a hair

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar | Published: June 2, 2012 3:13 am

Saved by a hair

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was indicted in April by the Pakistan Supreme Court for contempt and inaction,which provided him manoeuvring space to ensure his continuity in office. The court’s short order left it to the National Assembly speaker’s good sense to decide whether an indicted PM can continue as a legislator or not. The speaker in question,Fehmida Mirza,being a senior member of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a Asif Zardari loyalist,did what was expected. Last week,Mirza’s statement that there was “no question of (the) disqualification of Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani from being a member” made headlines. In effect,the speaker doesn’t see any merit in referring the case for Gilani’s disqualification to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) within 30 days,as mandated by law. No sooner had Mirza pronounced this,a petition was filed in the Sindh high court where an advocate,Maulvi Iqbal Haider,maintained that the speaker’s decision against forwarding the reference to the election commission was against the law and demanded it be declared null and void.

This week,Mirza replied to the court defending her decision. The Express Tribune reported on June 1: “Arguing that ‘there is no need to refer the matter to the Election Commission of Pakistan…,’ the speaker asked the Sindh high court to dismiss the petition seeking a ruling against the decision to not disqualify the PM… The petition had no legal wings to fly,became infructuous and should,hence,be dismissed…” Earlier this week,Mirza’s rather bold step was condemned by the PPP’s political rivals. The News reported on May 28: “Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) have submitted petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the ruling of National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza on PM Gilani’s conviction… The petition(s) by the PML-N and PTI name the federation,(the) PM,(the)National Assembly speaker and the ECP as parties.” In an exclusive story,The News reported that after the assertive stand taken by Mirza in favour of Gilani,the issue of his disqualification appears to have died its own death. Quoting a member of the ECP,the report elaborated on how the case has now become defunct: “the ECP would have come into action had the speaker referred the matter to (it) within 30 days or not taken any decision within this period. He said that once the speaker concluded that no question of ineligibility of the PM has arisen,the role of the ECP ceased. Now,the ECP can’t act on its own unless directed by a court of law…”

Election budget

IT IS budget season in Pakistan. With the country gearing up for its next general elections in early 2013,the ruling PPP was expected to present a feel-good budget this year. On May 31,Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh presented the Economic Survey,reported Daily Times. Terming financial year 2011-12 as a “new beginning”,Sheikh told the National Assembly that Pakistan’s GDP growth went up by 0.7 per cent (3.7 per cent),but missed its target (4.2 per cent). Inflation fell by 3 per cent from last year. The government’s expenses fell by 10 per cent,while tax collection rose an “unprecedented” 25 per cent. Dawn added that Sheikh was expected to deliver the “largest budget by volume in the country’s history”,with an estimated outlay ranging between Rs 3.2 to 3.5 trillion for 2012-13.

On June 1,the government of Yousuf Raza Gilani created history by becoming the first democratic government to present its fifth budget in the history of Pakistan. This budget,as expected,is a populist budget,aimed at getting the incumbent PPP another term in power,which at this stage also seems likely,despite it being too early to comment on.

Budget 2012-13 allocates more money to nuclear power but takes away from the expenditure on art and culture; announces no additional taxes and raises the tax exemption ceiling from Rs 3,50,000 to Rs 4,00,000; introduces “honour cards” for law abiding tax payers accruing them benefits in government services like passport issuance,amongst other measures to spare the taxpayer some money.

Out in the open

THE chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province,Shahbaz Sharif has moved his workstation from his office building to the historic Minar-e-Pakistan ground,where the Pakistan Resolution was passed in 1940. Symbolic of Pakistan’s struggles,this structure is a public protest space. On June 1,The Express Tribune reported that Sharif,at his Minar-e-Pakistan “office”,said: “it is not about the livelihood anymore,but about their (people’s) survival… They do not have electricity and they have to face water shortage,due to that they cannot bathe,they are sleepless.” For many years,Pakistan has been suffering from a severe power crisis.

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