Law and Justice Minister Farooq H. Naek has characterised as illegal the letter written by the Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court to the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Cabinet Secretary and the Chief Election Commissioner about implementation of the court order declaring Prime Minister Gilani guilty of contempt of court. He termed it “contempt of Parliament”, an attempt at “ridiculing Parliament”, etc., maintaining that the court official had misused his powers and the court should hold an inquiry into his conduct on that count. There is little doubt that Mr Naek, for all his legal background and parliamentary experience, was frustrated by the simple procedure followed by the bureaucracy, or, to say the least, he was trying to make much of what the Assistant Registrar was bound to do in the discharge of his duties. His apt response that it was a routine course should clarify the position. Nevertheless, the government attitude appears to be yet another attempt at playing up a side issue to further confuse the political scenario of the country. From this confusion, however, there emerges at least one clear point i.e. the ruling coalition is ready to show Mr Gilani the door if the appeal that it intends to file against the verdict is turned down. The Law Minister’s remark that if the Supreme Court ordered the disqualification of the Prime Minister, the government would comply, supports this conclusion.

The opposition parties and certain sections of the media are, however, harshly critical of the government for, what they believe, a misplaced interpretation it is putting on the court order.

Spearheading the unedifying battle of words is, on the one hand, the government, which contends that the judgment does not entail the disability of Mr Gilani to remain Member of Parliament or, as a consequence, Prime Minister; on the other, the opposition parties, which interpret the decision otherwise, are convinced that with Mr Gilani’s refusal to bow out, he has rendered his position as MNA and Prime Minister constitutionally and legally untenable. Thus, they have categorically maintained that they would not recognise him as Prime Minister. Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has gone to the extent of saying that Mr Gilani would not receive the protocol that is due to the high office when comes to the province. Jama’at-i-Islami Amir Munawwar Hassan has asked for his resignation, “before millions come out on the street” and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf leader Imran Khan has warned of “a tsunami march”. Would the Supreme Court consider, in its wisdom, issuing specific orders about whether the conviction entails disqualification or not? Perhaps, the detailed judgment could set the nagging uncertainty at rest!