Pakistan: An overview of Gilani’s tenure
After enduring rough weather, defiant Yousuf Raza Gilani accepted his disqualification as the Prime Minister of Pakistan by its Supreme Court, which cited two rulings from the Indian apex court out of eight judicial verdicts. Gilani, the eleventh premiere of Pakistan was democratically elected in 2008 ending nine years of former military chief Pervez Musharraf’s rule.
In his four-year span as Pakistan’s PM, Gilani’s regime witnessed sweeping changes in Indo-Pak ties as well as US-Pak ties. Marred by shaky episodes throughout his term, Gilani, perhaps, an India-friendly PM unfortunately could not complete his five-year term.
Gilani-led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) raised the hopes of stability when it swept to power by defeating PML-Q’s Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi on March 24, 2008. But the powerful Army and an assertive judiciary was most of the times at logger heads with the government. They also had to deal with a thorny Opposition (Nawaz Sharif and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan).
In his second year as Pak PM, in 2009, Gilani played a pivotal role in the restoration of judiciary by convincing President Asif Ali Zardari to reinstate Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of Pakistan through an executive order.
The clouds of disturbance surfaced over Gilani when the Pakistani government was beleaguered by infamous ‘Memogate scandal’ in October 2011 which jolted the country’s top leadership. The scandal was allegedly ignited by former Pakistani envoy to US, Hussain Haqqani’s hand written note at the behest of President Asif
Ali Zardari to US military Chief, Admiral Michael Mullen to convey a message to Army and ISI to end their brinkmanship aimed at collapsing the civilian government.
This particular episode resulted in a coup-like situation in a country which has remained under Army’s rule for most of its existence. Gilani called the shots and said that the Army had acted in an “unconstitutional and illegal” manner by filing affidavits on the memo issue in the Supreme Court without getting the government’s approval. The powerful Army retaliated by saying that the premiere’s remarks could lead to “grievous consequences”. This verbal altercation even led to the sacking of Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Naeem Lodhi, a confidant of Kayani.
In the history of Pakistan, Gilani has became the first serving PM to be convicted by the Supreme Court on charges of contempt for not writing a letter to Swiss authorities to take action on graft charges against Zardari.
Besides fighting against internal tumultuous situations, Gilani also weathered a tough period vis-à-vis India. Within eight months of Gilani’s premiership, the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks in 2008 occurred, dealing a severe blow to Indo-Pak bilateral relations that nearly pushed the two countries to a war-like situation.
Described as the “Man of Peace” by Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, his counterpart tried to maintained a cordial relationship with India throughout his tenure.
The diplomatic ties between Pakistan and US turned sour following such incidents as the Osama bin Laden operation in Abottabad in May 2011, Salala incident and Pakistan’s order to US troops to shut down and vacate Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan. These incidents led to a strained relationship between United States and Pakistan, which is still at a critical juncture.
Now, we have to wait and see how Pakistan balances internal political storm along with handling foreign relations. After a number of twists and turns, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has finally reached a consensus on the next Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Earlier, the name of little known Makhdoom Shahabuddin was being floated for the post of top job but was dropped at the last hour after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him by Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) for alleged irregularities in connection with the import of a large amount of the controlled drug ephedrine during his tenure as health minister. The scam also includes Gilani’s son, Ali Musa Gilani.
Now, all hopes are on Raja Pervaiz Ashraf who has been appointed as the 12th Prime Minister of Pakistan by the PPP led government. In 2011, he was forced to resign as the minister for water and power on serious corruption allegations for receiving kickbacks in rental power projects and buying properties in London.
The pertinent question is whether Pakistan can serve its people by appointing a prime minister without a black stain on his image? Such is the state of affairs.