Pakistan’s government wins trust vote in parliament



    The National Assembly of Pakistan gave the government and the embattled prime minister a vote of confidence which will give it a boost in the confrontation with the Supreme Court and the Army. The resolution passed by the house said that the assembly supported “efforts made by the political leadership for strengthening democracy” and reposed “full confidence and trust” in the leadership. Some amendments were proposed by the PML(N) one of which said that the final authority to rule lies with Allah Almighty.

    The Prime Minister had sought  the trust vote in the wake of the contempt notice issued against the him today. Reports indicate that Gilani would appear in the court and offer and unconditional apology for not pursuing cases against the President.

    The Pakistan Supreme Court has issued a contempt notice to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, asking him to explain why the government has not followed up on long running corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The Prime minister will have to appear in person in the court. The prime minister has offered to resign, saying that he was ready to step down if the parliament wanted, and he now faces a trust vote in parliament. The government now seeks a trust vote to boost confidence in the government.

    The notice which was issued by the seven member bench of the Supreme Court said “In these circumstances, we are left with no option, as a first step, to issue a show cause notice.” The date has been set for January 19. The court order gives a sharp setback to the government which has been fighting for survival. It is under pressure from the Army over ‘memogate’ and from the Supreme Court for not opening corruption cases against Zardari. “This is not a small, usual thing,” Moula Bakhsh Chandio, the Pakistani Law Minister told reporters. “This is a Supreme Court order on which we will consult our committee of experts. We will take the necessary steps in light of the constitution and the law.”

    Zardari had allegedly sent a memo to the US chief of staff Admiral Mike Mullen asking for help against a possible military coup in the wake of the Osama assassination. The issue has provoked a bitter confrontation between the govt and the army, with the last few days seeing tit-for-tat moves from both sides. A second Supreme Court bench is now hearing the matter.

    The Supreme Court had in 2009 struck down the National Reconciliation Ordinance promulgated by the government under Pervez Musharraf, which cleared all the cases against Zardari. Since then, the government has dragged its feet on opening investigations against Zardari, arguing that the president enjoys legal immunity.

    The move by the Supreme Court could lead to the Prime Minister’s dismissal, as contempt proceedings could result in a jail term. While sitting prime minsters have been summoned to appear before the Supreme Court before, no one has ever been jailed while still in office.

    “Theoretically the prime minister can be sent to the jail if he is convicted of contempt of court,” former law minister Khalid Anwar said.

    “But I don’t think that will happen. The danger is that if he is convicted, he would be disqualified from being a member of the parliament,” he opined, which would mean that Gilani could no longer serve as the prime minster.