x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Pakistan now needs stability after Gilani

Yesterday's high court ruling in Pakistan means still more political tumult, which is not exactly what the country needs.

Yousuf Raza Gilani has reached the end of the legal road and it has forced him out of office. Convicted in April by Pakistan's Supreme Court, Mr Gilani was yesterday disqualified from office by the same court, ejecting him from the prime minister's post. Mr Gilani has indicated that he will not appeal, effectively ending his legal battle for now. For such a wily politician, it is of course too early to call an end to his political career.

It is not too early to guard against the instability that this ruling may inspire. The ruling highlights the intricate web of personalities and politics governing Pakistan. Mr Gilani was convicted of failing to pursue corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari. Now Mr Zardari, as de facto head of the ruling Pakistan's People's Party (PPP), is tasked with finding a successor to the man widely regarded as having lost his job for defending him.

The PPP has accepted the ruling, skirting potentially damaging protests. After Mr Gilani's conviction in April, fears of demonstrations emerged, though unrest did not materialise. Yet Pakistan seems perpetually in crisis. The country is a vital ally of the UAE and enormously important in South Asia. Any problem in Pakistan threatens - and often does - affect neighbouring countries.

What could allay these fears is a stable civilian government, something Pakistan has rarely enjoyed. The country faces significant problems at home and abroad, from homegrown militancy and US drone strikes to a faltering economy and endemic corruption (to which this latest event is connected). Compounding this is the sporadic conflict among the civilian government, the judiciary and the powerful military.

The military has a history of removing civilian governments. Now the Supreme Court has done the same. Most Pakistanis would say that Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudry's independence is above question, and the decision to remove Mr Gilani, though momentous, is within the court's purview.

Pakistan's friends should take a similar view, and recognise this move as the domestic politics of a sovereign nation. After all, there is much more at stake than just Mr Gilani's career.