So the Mexican Standoff is finally showing signs of easing up. The deadlock has been broken and – in light of Gilani’s sacking, on 19 June 2012, by the Supreme Court – the parties to the conflict are beginning to see eye to eye. Détente, however, has not come easily for the Zardari regime. Yet, despite the costs to the PPP government, better sense has ultimately prevailed.
In order to implement paragraph 178 of the NRO Judgment, the government has taken the initial step of withdrawing the “unauthorised and illegal” letter (written in 2008) by the former attorney general of Pakistan (Malik Qayyum) which called upon the Swiss authorities to retract the corruption cases against Zardari. The new letter, however, which must invite the Swiss authorities to reopen the corruption cases against Zardari remains outstanding.
The five-member Supreme Court bench (headed by Asif Saeed Khosa JSC and including Ejaz Afzal Khan, Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Gulzar Ahmed, Muhammad Ather Saeed JJSC) gave the government a few days to prepare the text of the letter and also intimated that it might review the developments in the case sooner rather than later. The Court intends to vet the letter prior to the document being dispatched to Switzerland. Yet despite these new developments, Zardari will still be immune from prosecution until he leaves the President’s office.
But the Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who informed the apex Court of the federal government’s intention to withdraw the Malik Qayyum’s 2008 letter (through the venal figure of federal law minister Farooq Naek) has been excused from attending court in person on 25 September 2012 – which has been scheduled as the date for the next hearing. Likewise, the “federal law minister” has also pleaded that he needed more time to write the said letter.
A subservient and sheepish Raja Pervez Ashraf is reported to have been heard thanking the judges for granting him an earlier grace period of three weeks. And, hanging on by a thread, he was heard begging for more time to implement the NRO judgment and avoid Mr Gilani’s fate. Hence, all the fuss that Raja Pervez Ashraf made by stating that would not, under any circumstances, write the letter ultimately amounted to nothing. He was just bluffing. But it was not as one sided as that and the Court was impressed by the prime minister’s attitude and viewed it as a positive development in the case.
In times of high inflation and increasing poverty, the rapprochement has eased the heightened state of tension in the country. Many people say that the Supreme Court acts at the army’s behest.
And so what?
After its historic role in using the judiciary to weaken the democratic process, in future, the army’s involvement in the strengthening of civilian institutions, of which the Supreme Court is one, can only be an emollient thing for Pakistani politics.
The Supreme Court’s Order is available below