Islamabad: Pakistani media on Tuesday warned
beleaguered Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani-led government
that it has been granted a "last lifeline" by the Supreme
Court to end its confrontation with the judiciary as the
nation can ill-afford another spell of military rule.
Gilani`s response when he appears in the apex court on
January 19 is expected to influence the outcome of the current
face-off between the Pakistan People`s Party-led government
and the assertive judiciary over the reopening of graft cases
in Switzerland against President Asif Ali Zardari, leading
newspapers said in their editorials.
The banner headline in the Dawn newspaper read `Defiant
premier in the dock ? Supreme Court slaps Gilani with
contempt`, while the front page of Pakistan Today featured an
old Western movie-style wanted poster with Gilani`s face under
the slogan "Contempt of court".
The apex court yesterday issued a notice to Gilani to
explain why contempt of court proceedings should not be
started against him for failing to act on its orders to revive
cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari.
The Dawn said in its editorial that the Supreme Court had
apparently given the PPP-led government "one last lifeline".
In an editorial titled `A testing time`, The Express
Tribune said much would now depend on the Premier`s response
when he appears in the apex court.
The newspaper said Gilani deserved appreciation for "his
vigorous defence of democracy" and for suggesting that the
"military had a constitutional role to play".
"This should come not just from his party but from the
entire nation that can ill-afford another general who thinks
the reins of power rightfully belong to him," it said.
However, The Express Tribune warned that "all this could
come to nought if, for example, the Prime Minister is found
guilty of contempt of court".
If that happens, Gilani would have to step down and
would perhaps be disbarred from contesting elections for a
certain period of time, it said.
Speaking in Parliament, Gilani yesterday said he would
appear in the Supreme Court to answer the contempt notice. He
said the judiciary and the military may have differences with
his government but they would have to protect democracy.
The beleaguered government got a shot in the arm when a
pro-democracy resolution tabled by a junior partner of the
ruling coalition was passed by a majority in the National
Assembly or lower house of Parliament.
The judiciary and the military, Gilani said, could not
"derail" or "pack up" the democratic system.
The Dawn newspaper questioned why the government was
"unwilling to write the letter to Swiss authorities that the
Supreme Court has demanded" for reviving the graft cases
"Even constitutional and legal experts in PPP circles
have suggested that merely writing the letter will not
endanger the position of President Zardari or the standing of
the political government," the editorial said.
If the letter is written even at this stage, the court
"would likely accept compliance with its orders and the
country could close this unhappy chapter".
"Merely stating that he respects the Supreme Court, as
the Prime Minister said in his speech, will not suffice."
The Premier`s speech in Parliament did not have the "ring
of a farewell speech", indicating that no side is "willing to
climb down the ladder of escalation".
"Therefore, almost by default, the country seems to be
inching ever closer to a disaster for the democratic process,"
the editorial warned.
"Merely getting a resolution passed that shows the
coalition`s strength in Parliament will not strengthen the
democratic process," the Dawn added.
The News, in its editorial `Notice to PM`, largely blamed
the government for the standoff with the judiciary.
It cautioned that if Gilani tells the apex court on
January 19 that the government will not write to Swiss
authorities to reopen the graft cases, he "could stand to
become ineligible to be a member of Parliament".
The Pakistan Today daily, in its editorial titled `Crisis
still unresolved`, said President Zardari`s directive to
Gilani to appear before the apex court would not resolve the
crisis "unless either Mr Zardari succeeds in getting immunity
from the Supreme Court in matters of litigation or the
government writes to the Swiss authorities to open the cases
against the President".
The daily further said: "The court and the government
have taken strong positions. Unless either of the two displays
flexibility, there is little hope of the crisis being
Even if Gilani is removed, the PPP has enough strength to
get another loyalist elected to the post of premier, it said.
"This will, however, only intensify the crisis by
bringing the judiciary and executive into head-on clash. This
would be recipe for the unravelling of the system, which needs
to be avoided," Pakistan Today said.