The premature removal of elected prime ministers in Pakistan before completion of their tenure has a long tradition, though the modus vivendi this time has drastically changed.
For decades, the military has played this role either directly or through presidents, in the 1990s, while the judiciary fell in line.
Yousaf Raza Gilani’s ouster through a court order sets a new precedent and, hence, is inherently divisive and open to a fractious debate prompting some to characterise the Supreme Court ruling as a ‘judicial coup’. Incidentally, there was always an element of inevitability to such an action. By defying the court’s orders and refusing to write a letter to the Swiss authorities asking for a reopening of the money-laundering case against President Asif Zardari, Gilani had left the court no option but to take drastic action after showing much restraint for nearly two years.
The verdict had created a dangerous situation of a possible showdown between the judiciary and parliament where the ruling coalition has an overwhelming majority. Such a course could have plunged the country into a deep crisis at a time when it is already facing multiple domestic and external challenges.President Zardari and his party have shown a remarkable sense of maturity and responsibility by accepting the decision and losing no time in setting about the task of finding an alternative choice.