The Supreme Court in Pakistan has disqualified its Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani. The courts had decided that Gilani was no longer fit for holding office – and has not been fit for office since April 26th. In addition, the former Election Commission secretary said, after the verdict was read, that Gilani can not hold a political office for the next five years.
Gilani can not try to run for parliament after his court hearing and it has been reported that his name was removed from the Press Information Department website. “The Election Commission shall issue a notice of disqualification and the president is required to take necessary steps to ensure continuation of democratic process,” says Chief Justice Supreme Court Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Gilani still has a chance to appeal the court’s decision within 30 days of the verdict being read.
Right now, Pakistan doesn’t have any “interim” Prime Minister. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has said that they will not be entering a candidate for the prime minister elections. Additionally, the PML-N and the Pakistan Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had petitioned to disqualify the prime minister after the courts found him guilty of contempt.
The big question here is how will the US-Pakistan relationship be affected by this decision? Gilani has been the Prime Minister since March 2008 which has put him as a key figure in the US’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Originally, US and Pakistan had a stable relationship however, after President Obama called on Seal Team 6 to kill Osama bin Laden, many in Pakistan were outraged and soon our alliance began to crumble. Along the way, drone strikes and accidental friendly fire will further deteriorate relations.
However, under the new Prime Minister, how will US foreign policy change? Since the US’s operations are widely unpopular in Pakistan, I wouldn’t assume that this new Prime Minister will allow US drones and other tactical attacks on al Qaeda/Taliban militants. Pakistan feels that their sovereignty has been violated, at times, by US and NATO forces as they fight Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
President Obama has seriously stepped up the US drone program in the Middle East since taking office in 2009. Unfortunately, the President’s aggressiveness has forced some of our Middle East allies to question their support for the US, as Pakistan has made clear.
The bottom line here is that change is coming to Pakistan. Unfortunately, it is not likely that these changes will benefit the US in any way. However, the US could possibly pull out some agreements with this new PM in exchange for aid or other goods. Before we continue to speculate further, we need to wait and see the candidates for the vacant position to fully understand where Pakistan could be heading.