Contempt in a tea cup

PM Gilani at Supreme Court

A conviction of contempt was entered against the nation’s longest serving Prime Minister in history Yousuf Raza Gilani today. In a telling manner, the Court sentenced the PM till the rising of the Court only – in other words about 30 seconds. Many believe this was an attempt by the Court to save face after finding itself backed into a corner. Whatever your opinion about the Court’s decision, though, the events of today are a further sign that a strong and mature democracy is taking firm root.

The day before the Court convened to deliver its verdict, the Prime Minister gave a statement that received surprisingly little notice, though actually it was quite meaningful.

Gilani said he had always honoured the decisions of the court and fully respects its verdicts. He said the Supreme Court has summoned him for the third time and if any other cabinet colleague wishes to accompany him, he was welcome.

And, in fact, this is exactly what he did. The Prime Minister appeared before the Court humbly and respectfully. He continued to defend his innocence in the matter, but he submitted to the Court’s verdict and has followed through on his pledge taken earlier this year not to seek a presidential pardon.

Compare this with governments of the past who, facing the wrath of the Court, either sacked the Chief Justice or organised party supporters to storm the Court, shutting down proceedings.

Today, soliders sat bored at checkpoints in Islamabad. The Court needed no defending because, despite the best efforts of some in the media to portray it differently, the government was never at war with the Court.

What comes next? Many in the media are obviously disappointed that the Prime Minister was not disqualified forthwith and is likely to continue its attempts to fan the flames between the government and the judiciary. Don’t expect it to amount to anything but bellyaches. The Prime Minister’s lawyer has stated that he intends to appeal the conviction per proper legal procedures.

Once again the government has defied the doomsday predictions and has shown a maturity and respect for rule of law that is the hallmark of democracy. Zardari haters from Imran Khan to Ansar Abbasi opened today with calls that the Court’s decision must be respected at all costs. Following today’s proceedings, it has become clear that he only dramas will be in the media, not in the courtroom.

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