Pak papers link ‘judicial coup’ to CJ son’s case

ISLAMABADL The Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify the Prime Minister has pitted state institutions against each other at a time when the country is grappling with several challenges and raised questions about a “judicial coup” overseen by the top judge, the Pakistani media said today.

Sections of the media questioned the apex court’s ruling that declared Yousuf Raza Gilani ineligible for the post of premier, with commentators asking why the judiciary had acted almost two months after the Prime Minister was convicted of contempt for refusing to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The news of Gilani’s ouster dominated the front pages of Pakistani dailies, with The News headlining its report: “Out you go Mr PM”.

The headline in the influential Dawn newspaper read, “Prime minister is sent packing”.

In an editorial titled ‘A judicial coup?’, The Express Tribune questioned the timing and the reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s decision.

The daily said “the view, that with this verdict, the apex court has played the role of judiciary, legislature and executive, may find some takers”.

The Tribune cautioned that there would be people, and “not entirely from within the (ruling Pakistan People’s Party), who may consider whether yesterday’s verdict is, in effect, a judicial coup”.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry yesterday disqualified Gilani in response to several petitions that had challenged National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza’s decision not to disqualify the premier following his conviction of contempt. The court ruled that the post of premier had been vacant since April 26, when another seven-judge bench had convicted Gilani of contempt for refusing to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against Zardari.

However, commentators noted that the Supreme Court had acted days after real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain, known for his ties with political parties and the military, had acknowledged that he paid over Rs 342 million to the Chief Justice’s son Arsalan Iftikhar to influence cases in the apex court.

Some commentators contended the apex court was trying to divert attention from the allegations against the top judge’s son.

“Support for the decision may not be unanimous mainly because of recent developments, especially where the Honorable Court was dragged into the Arsalan Iftikhar matter and how it chose to “itself” remove it from the allegations citing that Malik Riaz had himself admitted that he had never received any favors from the court,” the editorial in the Tribune said.

The passage of almost two months since Gilani’s conviction and his disqualification “may well give ammunition to some people who may claim that the Honorable Court is perhaps trying to deflect attention from the Arsalan Iftikhar case”, the editorial added.

The Dawn, in an editorial titled “PM’s disqualification”, said the Supreme Court had taken “an extraordinary – and unfortunate – step”.

The apex court’s action had “brought the judiciary, parliament and the executive in direct confrontation with each other”.

“Legally there might have been a case against the prime minister, but it was best for the supreme judiciary not to have waded so deep into such obviously political waters,” the editorial cautioned.

The apex court could have declared the Speaker’s decision not to disqualify the premier unacceptable and referred the matter to the Election Commission, it said.

The News daily, which has backed the Chief Justice in his standoff with the government, said in its editorial that the Supreme Court’s ruling was “inevitable”.

It added: “Contrary to the claims by many, the ouster of the prime minister and his cabinet has not shaken the democratic system”.

The media further said the ruling-PPP now had to take some tough decisions to ensure that political, economic, strategic and security policies are not affected at a time when the country is grappling with an economic downturn and strained ties with the US.

The News called for “extreme restraint and political maturity and vision” on the part of all players while the Dawn said the PPP “should now take the high moral ground and focus on the system rather than the individual”.

The Express Tribune pointed out that the apex court “has not shown the same assertiveness to military dictators that it has shown to elected civilians (and) governments”. -PTI

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