As different networks are reporting the Pakistani Supreme Court has ruled that Prime Minister Gilani is no longer a member of parliament and cannot be PM (the short order can be found here
). For those interested in following the rather long and complex chain of events that led to this outcome a useful timeline can be found on the Dawn website here
. Essentially, the Court had ordered Prime Minister Gilani to reopen the corruption investigation concerning President Zardari relating to a suspect Swiss Bank account. Gilani had refused. The Court then held Gilani in contempt. They have now decided that since he is in contempt he can no longer be a MP or PM. They have ordered the President to appoint a new PM. This presents a clear standoff. The PPP has the seats to appoint another PM. However, Zardari would be unlikely to appoint someone who would reopen corruption charges against himself. Yet, if the next PM did not investigate Zardari they could be held in contempt as well. It’s unclear what the options are out of this impasse – new elections, a military coup, Zardari stepping down, open defiance of the court order, etc.
The fear, of course, is that the military is playing Pakistan’s civilian institutions and parties off of each other to maintain their control in the background (or potentially soon the foreground). Most regime changes in Pakistan (and Bangladesh) have taken place on the accusation that those in power were corrupt. This then allowed another party – sometimes the military and sometimes political parties replacing the military – to step in on the basis that they were less corrupt than the current government. I actually don’t think that Pakistan has ever completed a successful complete term of a democratic government – i.e. an elected government rules for its full term and then another election is held to determine the next government. It would be a shame if this court order undercuts the ability of the country to have a successful election cycle.