The disqualification of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani was along expected lines. Anchorpersons on various news channels had been speaking about it often enough over the past few days for the nation to be well prepared.
But, it still came as a disappointment for the advocates of democracy who had been willing to indulge the bungling Pakistan Peoples Party-led dispensation for the sake of keeping the democratic exercise on track. All they had hoped for was to see a democratically-elected Prime Minister complete his term, for that has been something of a novelty in a country where the civilian leadership has always had to look over its shoulder.
And being a conspiracy-theory-prone country with a history of coups, people were quick to describe this as a “judicial coup” and began saying that the only way the judiciary can shake off this suspicion would be by proceeding with equal zeal in cases against the powerful security establishment, particularly the missing persons cases in which the intelligence agencies are suspect.
With television channels whipping up frenzy over the judgment — which the court had said would be pronounced at 3 p.m. — the sense of anticipation and fear of the inevitable were equally palpable. So when details of the short order became available half an hour later, people had their responses ready; depending upon their personal convictions.
While the two main opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf — were predictably overjoyed at their judicial victory as the disqualification came on their petitions, the others primarily rallied around the PPP as most of them are in coalition with the party. The PPP itself went into a huddle and called a series of meetings of its various decision-making bodies even as President Asif Ali Zardari cancelled his visit to Russia beginning Wednesday.
Given the limited avenues of public discourse in Pakistan, blogosphere came alive with a wide range of reactions. One tweet described it as “the post-modern coup; no Army required”. Since it is almost routine for the army to step in to control any crisis situation, rumours began doing the rounds of that possibility — to such an extent that saner voices were seen appealing on social networking sites against rumour-mongering for fear that it would only give acceptance to such an intervention.
Television channels, of course, had the story of the day and some of them who have been particularly critical of the PPP were visibly salivating. Bollywood songs were in demand and were used aplenty in headlines and fillers between programmes to break the news and reflect upon Mr. Gilani’s own predicament as he now faces the prospect of five years of political wilderness.