Contempt of court
Yousaf Raza Gilani is the fourth PM of Pakistan to be in the dock facing contempt charges. It is an irony that a PM who ordered the release of the judges kept under house arrest by Musharraf and later reinstated them through an office order is now facing the charge of contempt of court.
Gilani has repeatedly assured the court that the PPP government would, as always, respect and implement the verdicts delivered by the courts. As a sign of this commitment and to show his respect for the apex court, he had promptly appeared when called by the SC on January 19 along with the members of his cabinet and provincial governors. He, however, failed to carry out the orders of the SC to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against President Zardari, taking the stand that four competent legal advisors had one after another advised him against it on legal grounds. The stand was rejected by the apex court which held that clear orders by the SC had to be followed instead of the official advice. In a law abiding society, while one may differ with a judgment, one has to carry it out. One expects that Gilani would now make preparations to face the charges while utilising all legal avenues to vindicate himself. These include putting up an adequate legal defence and taking recourse to intra-court appeal if needed.
Civilian governments have generally respected the courts in Pakistan. Successive military rulers, on the other hand, have shaken the foundations of the judicial system without ever being held accountable. The imposition of PCOs by Zia and Musharraf constituted a blatant attack on the independence of judiciary. Zia did not even invite CJ Anwaar-ul-Haq and Justice Moulvi Mushtaq to take oath. The two judges who refused to take oath under PCO were told to resign. Musharraf removed and arrested judges under the cover of the emergency. Important generals do not appear before courts. Irrespective of the final outcome of the case against PM Gilani, the question why contemners of a particular type have never been charge sheeted by the courts will continue to be raised by historians and politicians.