The World’s Most Meddlesome Supreme Courts
PAKISTAN: The court, 17 justices appointed by the president for life terms. Activism: On June 19, the Supreme Court issued a ruling stating that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had “ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan.” Gilani had been held in contempt of court since refusing to prosecute President Asif Ali Zardari for corruption, as the court had directed two years ago.
Giliani’s sacking is another episode in the escalating power struggle between the military-backed Supreme Court and the civilian administration, which is controlled by Gilani and Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The court and the president have been butting heads since 2009, when Zardari opposed the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who had been sacked by then President Pervez Musharraf. Zardari had only allowed Chaudhry to return to power to avoid massive protests led by Zardari’s rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Supreme Court and Zardari’s government have been on a collision course ever since, and Gilani’s dismissal was yet another judicial attack on Zardari.
But the court didn’t stop with ousting the prime minister. When Zardari and PPP leaders selected former finance and health minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin to replace Gilani as prime minister, the court issued a warrant for his arrest for alleged production of an illegal drug. Just to be safe, the arrest warrant includes the ousted prime minister’s son, too. Although critics and activists have denounced the court’s actions as a coup, spokesmen from the PPP have told their supporters to stand down for the time being.
On June 25, the PPP’s second choice — Raja Pervaiz Ashraf — took over as prime minister. There’s a good chance Ashraf may also be on a collision course with the court, as he is currently facing allegations of corruption and bribe-taking from his time as water and power minister. His relationship with the court could become even more tense if he follows in his predecessor’s footsteps by refusing to investigate Zardari.