The PML-N Quaid, Mian Nawaz Sharif, while briefing the media on April 27 in Lahore, declared that the office of Prime Minister has become vacant after the Supreme Court verdict in the contempt case. He said: “If we allow and accept the convicted PM and ineligible Cabinet to continue, we have no right to be in politics”, and demanded that Mr Gilani should resign. Otherwise, he will have to face the people’s wrath. In the same vein, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly of Pakistan, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said: “A convicted Prime Minister will not be allowed to enter the assembly hall.”

Mr Gilani, however, addressed the NA session on Friday in the absence of opposition members belonging to the PML-N, and challenged them to bring a no-confidence motion against him. He said: “I am an elected Prime Minister, representing 180 million people. How can anybody order an elected Prime Minister to go home? Only the Speaker, who is the custodian of this house, has the authority to decide…….I have not committed a crime, I have done nothing wrong, but I have protected the Constitution.”

Perhaps, the premier’s aggression and overconfidence is not without reason. One, he has complete support of the PPP coalition partners, namely MQM, PML-Q and ANP; and second, he is backed by foreign governments, especially the US. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland has stated: “The US will continue to work with Prime Minister Gilani and believes that he remains leader of the Pakistani democratic government…….There was a court decision; he was given a 30-second conviction, I believe, and he remains the Prime Minister of Pakistan…….And, as such, we continue to work with him and Ambassador Grossman did meet with him in Pakistan.”

Nevertheless, the legal, constitutional and political implications of the verdict are grave. The initial response is clearly reflected in Nawaz and Imran’s statements to uphold the rule of law come what may! Major political parties have decided to work out a joint strategy to establish law and order in the country, which is rapidly sliding into anarchy and lawlessness.

Over the past four years, the opposition has been blindly, in fact foolishly, following the ruling elite to save democratic setup, and contain any move made by the undemocratic forces to upset the applecart. This has enabled the PPP to survive since the 2008 elections, despite several corruption cases against its members. Hence, the internal and external challenges facing Pakistan, coupled with a serious threat to national security, has brought Imran Khan in the limelight. He is emerging as the voice of the masses, since no other leader is willing to listen and understand their problems

For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the Supreme Court has come out of the spell of doctrine of necessity. Also, there are many new things happening in the country: a sitting Prime Minister has been ‘convicted and jailed’ for 30 seconds; Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry is rightly taking suo motu notices of corruption scams involving ministers; and after the four-year tenure of the PPP-led coalition government, Nawaz Sharif has finally decided to play the role of a genuine opposition. The month of May, perhaps, will be crucial for the future of the so-called democratically-elected government.

    The writer is President of the Pakistan National Forum.