“For the past two years, we’ve had the same president, same prime minister, chief of Army staff, and chief justice,” notes Cyril Almeida, a political columnist with Dawn, the leading English daily. “That is a Pakistani version of stability.”
Last week, Chief Justice Chaudhry instituted a hearing on whether the government was planning to fire a number of judges, based on a television news report that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani swiftly denied and later took to national television to deny once more. Some analysts believe the report may have been a deliberate leak by the government to pressure the judiciary into giving a more lenient judgment.
At the heart of the clash is a controversial decree, known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which was passed by former President Pervez Musharraf in 2007. It was part of a political deal that allowed the late Mrs. Bhutto back into the country to contest 2008 elections without having to face charges related to money-laundering and kickbacks on government contracts.
The officials who were protected by the ordinance include Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, and senior diplomats, including Wajid Shamsul Hassan, the ambassador to Britain.