Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gilani's Problem wih the Law

Morality is timeless. But legality isn't.

Any government which only worries about the legal force of its positions and doesn't care about their positions' moral force is only focusing on the short-term and cannot be expected to bring about long-term prosperity for its country.

The Gilani government's ongoing conflict with the judiciary will be analyzed for some time to come. The lengthy arguments and counter-arguments between Aitzaz Ahsan and the Chief Justice will be picked apart continuously. And several themes will no doubt emerge.

The most important one is how the PPP government views the role of law: it is an instrument with which one can gain political power and then hold on to such power. Gilani's government is interested in proving the legality of its actions but is not at all interested in the underlying morality of its legal arguments.

How else can one explain some of the content in the appeal that Aitzaz Ahsan filed to the Supreme Court?

One argument asks whether it is possible for a Prime Minister to have contempt for the Supreme Court when that same Prime Minister gave the order to release detained Supreme Court judges. Do Aitzaz and Gilani not realize that the release order may have been politically motivated and therefore have nothing to do with how much respect Gilani has for the courts? Do they not realize that it is possible for a person to respect the courts at one point in time and then perform an action that shows contempt for those same courts at another point in time?

Of course, they do.

Another section in the appeal notes the irony of a Prime Minister possibly being sentenced by the same judiciary that he released. Do Aitzaz and Gilani not realize that whether or not a certain outcome is ironic has no relation to whether or not that same outcome is just?

Of course, they do. History is full of such ironies.

Yet another section of Gilani's appeal asks whether it is reasonable for the Prime Minister to be sentenced by Supreme Court judges when the individuals who were originally responsible for the sacking of the judges have yet to be formally charged and indicted. Do Aitzaz and Gilani not realize that the sentencing of a criminal should not be dependent on whether or not some other criminal has been successfully indicted?

Of course, they realize this. By their warped logic, no criminal would ever be sentenced because there would always exist some other criminal who is free and has yet to be sentenced.

The above legal arguments were of such dubious nature that Aitzaz Ahsan was forced to remove them from his appeal under pressure from the furious Supreme Court judges who believed that Gilani was trying to influence the judiciary. Ultimately, the Supreme Court rejected Gilani's appeal and will formally indict him.

Gilani's upcoming Supreme Court appearance gives him an opportunity to demonstrate whether he and his government have learnt anything from this sorry episode. Are they ready to start using the law for a higher moral purpose than simple political gain?