Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Should Gilani Resign?

The question of whether or not Gilani should resign is a legal one but it can also be considered a moral one.

Leaving aside the whole issue of parliamentary procedure and the various legal mechanisms that are present to disqualify a Prime Minister, there is the simple argument that the Prime Minister is a convicted criminal. At a purely personal level, then, he is not fit to lead a country. He doesn't have the moral foundation to do so whatever the eventual legal outcome is.

Of course, politics is about more than one person. The Prime Minister is no ordinary person and his resignation has all kinds of ramifications. The biggest one, from a national standpoint, is the issue of stability. So, the question that needs to be asked is whether or not Pakistan will become unstable as a result of Gilani's resignation.

The short answer is no.

Instability in a regime is felt when a political actor with substantial weight is abruptly thrown out of the mix. It is felt when someone irreplaceable leaves the scene. Gilani does not fit that bill. The PPP has no end of replacements for someone to fit the mould of an established party stalwart who will do the PPP leadership's every bidding.

The other factor to consider is that the PPP's present term in office is nearing an end. The election season has already begun and all of the political players are positioning themselves in anticipation of the next term in office. As such, a resignation by Gilani who is already on the way out would do little to affect political stability from the point of view of the democratic political process.

What about political stability as viewed by the army? Once again, Gilani's departure will probably do little to affect this. From the army's standpoint, the PPP is the institution of power while Gilani is simply one among many PPP politicians. The army is more concerned with the public's appetite for democracy versus army rule and are not so much concerned with a single political personality like Gilani. A Gilani departure followed by nomination of a like-minded replacement will not be significant enough to change the public's view of democracy and that is what the army cares about most.

On his own end, Gilani has confronted all the talk of his resignation head-on. He has repeatedly pointed out that the public, through the support of his parliamentary allies, have given him reason not to resign. This is a fiendish rhetorical trick because it plays on the public's sympathy for a government that is ruled by the people. Gilani knows that he can count on his parliamentary allies to not call for his resignation because these allies - like any rational politician - would much rather bring about his disqualification through the legal constitutional mechanisms that are already in place as opposed to abruptly ending his appointment by a vote of no-confidence.

Taken together, these points highlight a political leader who has no personal moral legitimacy and whose resignation would not affect political stability from any angle. To top it off, he is forcing his parliamentary allies to support his morally bankrupt position.

He should resign.

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