Innocence and Guilt

There has been a lot of discussion about the need to let the proper process play out with regards to accusations against Zardari. Some have even called it a ‘coup by other means’ or ‘coup by judiciary’ the way that opposition groups are trying to use the courts to throw out the democratically elected president. The Daily Times today gets to the bottom of the argument, though, and points out very correctly that despite what opposition groups might wish to be true, Zardari has never been convicted of any crime by any court. So what is all the fighting about?

The dismissal by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of the petition challenging the eligibility of Asif Ali Zardari to contest the presidential elections in the light of the Supreme Court’s detailed verdict on the NRO is an interesting development. The petitioners were unable to produce any finding by a competent court of law to prove that Zardari had been convicted of a crime.

This is unlikely to slow down the campaign being run by the opposition and a section of the media against the president. There are two major allegations being touted against the president. One, Zardari does not qualify for the office of the president since he is a convict. The problem with this argument as mentioned by the CEC, Justice (retd) Hamid Ali Mirza, is that no court of law has convicted Mr Zardari of any crime. Contrary to what the opposition and some sections of the media would have us believe, an individual is innocent until proved guilty. The second point adopted by these forces is to levy allegations of mass corruption by Mr Zardari, thus seeking his disqualification. This is a circular argument that has lost weight after the CEC’s verdict. The bigger question is, will the different forces within Pakistan let the political process run its normal course? Or will we as a nation be looking to our superior courts and military leaders for reprieve from this ‘supposed’ evil? The political process, which is heavily dependent on democratically elected governments and presidents being allowed to complete their tenure, is yet to become a reality for Pakistan.

President Zardari was elected with a two-thirds majority of the electoral college. The considerations of corruption as an afterthought by the opposition and the hostile sections of the media should have been brought to the fore before his election. Now the president enjoys immunity, as reiterated by the CEC. A sitting president can only be removed if he resigns or is impeached. Given that Mr Zardari has categorically stated he will not be resigning, the likelihood of him being impeached is nonexistent. The opposition and the sections of the media baying for Mr Zardari’s blood would be better advised to wait till the next general elections and let the present democratically elected government complete its tenure, as mandated by the people.

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