ISLAMABAD: After losing the dreamy office of prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani faces grave consequences - dismal political future, possible arraignment for a host of alleged mega corruption scandals and acceleration of pace of investigations against his two sons for their involvement in huge financial scams.
The stigma of conviction on Gilani that will stay for five years starting from April 26 when Justice Nasirul Mulk led seven-member bench sentenced him till the rising of the court on contempt charge will debar him from contesting next general elections and even the following parliamentary polls if they were held before April 2017. The moment he will file his nomination papers in any election before the expiration of these five years, the returning officer will reject them on the ground that he is a convict and can’t stand for any elected office. No superior court is likely to give him relief till this bar remains in force.
As prime minister, Gilani used every trick in his bag to obviate meaningful investigations against his sons, Syed Abdul Qadir Gilani and Syed Ali Musa Gilani, for months. Now the two young men will be deprived of the powerful parental patronage from the highest echelons of power to annihilate probes against them.
One boy, who is a member of the Punjab Assembly, is mired in the Haj corruption scandal while the other, who is member of the National Assembly, is caught up in the Rs7 billion ephedrine import quota scam with the Anti-Narcotics Force advancing at a fast track to conclude its investigation. The Supreme Court is supervising both the probes.
Additionally, all Gilani cronies, who were inducted by him in lucrative posts for certain considerations, are likely to be dumped by the new man, who would bring in his own set of favourites. His outgoing buddies are expected to face different serious charges.
At the same time, the lack of wisdom and failure to grasp the Constitution and law on the part of the official legal brains led Gilani to the garden path when they counseled him not to appeal against his conviction.
The short order also noted this fact when it said since no appeal was filed against the judgment of the Justice Nasirul Mulk bench sentencing Gilani on contempt charge, the conviction has attained finality.
Right from the start, the official legal eagles took Gilani’s conviction very lightly and kept harping on the theme that the matter ended with Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza’s ruling not to send the disqualification reference to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). They also asserted that just 30-second sentence was not enough under the Constitution to disqualify Gilani as MP.
Even before the short order was handed down by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry led three-member bench, Babar Awan took the likely outcome as a god gifted opportunity to make a dig on his main rival, Gilani’s lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, by saying that people responsible for advising the prime minister not to appeal against the conviction would be soon unveiled. “No client would forget the lawyer who charged Rs100 as his fee as with this amount it is only possible to purchase petrol to reach the Adiala Jail.”
The saga of the notorious National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that started with its knocking down on December 16, 2009 partially culminated with Gilani becoming the first major casualty and having been ousted from his coveted office.
While the April 26 short order of the seven-judge bench and its May 8 detailed judgment left some aspects unclear and certain grey areas, the brief ruling handed down by the three-member panel was abundantly clear-cut, explicit and unambiguous. It made the consequences and fallout of the conviction absolutely clear.
Gilani was hit by Article 63(1)(g), which says a person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, member of Parliament, if he has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or the integrity, or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the armed forces of Pakistan, unless a period of five years has lapsed since his release.
Even now, Gilani has the option of filing a review of the short order, but there is always a very narrow scope to get relief in such pleas as the fundamental decision is not radically changed. Only errors floating on the surface of the original judgment are taken care of, which, in the present case, are apparently missing. Gilani doesn’t have the luxury of filing an appeal against the short order.
The short order interpreted the role of the Speaker, in this case, when it said the Speaker, under Article 63(2), exercises powers, which are not covered by the definition of internal proceedings of Parliament, therefore, the Supreme Court, in exercise of power of judicial review, is not debarred from inquiring into her order of May 25.
This means that while parliamentary proceedings can’t be called into question in any court of law, the speaker’s decisions as was the present one, which do not fall in this category, can be.
Article 63(2), which says if any question arises whether an MP has become disqualified from being a member, the speaker or, as the case may be, the Senate Chairman shall, unless he decides that no such question has arisen, refer the question to the ECP within thirty days and if he fails to do so within this period it shall be deemed to have been referred to the ECP.