Our own Pimpernel


Really, Pakistan can also be the most entertaining place to live in! Where else does the Governor of a province disappear, missing sessions of the Provincial Legislative body without informing anyone of his intentions or whereabouts? Its all very exciting and makes you feel almost French as in the Scarlet Pimpernel madrigal: We seek him here, we seek him there, we Pakis seek him everywhere; is he in heaven or is he in hell, that demmed elusive… Sacre bleu!

When the Punjab Assembly met on Wednesday 8 December, the Governor, who would normally be part of the session was discovered to be absent. Whats more, it was discovered that he had been missing for the past 72 hours.

There was debate as to where Mr Taseer was: Was he in Colombo as reported by a television channel? Was he in Karachi, as also reported by a television channel, or in Sukkur, as a spokesperson of the Governors House has been quoted as saying he was? The DCO of Sukkur was however reportedly not aware of Mr Taseers presence in that town. Given our politicians predilection for sirens, bells, bajas and every other kind of fanfare such as halting traffic, it is not likely that his presence there would have gone unnoticed by the DCO of all persons, that is if the DCO really did say what has been attributed to him.

The most titillating bit of course was the speculation that Mr Taseer was in Dubai conducting secret errands for Mr Zardari as our Law Minister Rana Sanaullah says he was, but Mr Taseer says emphatically that he was not in Dubai. Well its a wide world, and a very exciting one, with the prospect of our Governor lurking around anywhere out there.

The fact that Mr. Taseer is now back in the seat, and was apparently in Sri Lanka for three days is beside the point. Also beside the point is that either his people were unwilling to say where he was, in which case one wonders why, or they simply did not know either. In which case one wonders why again.

The point is that the constitution appears to have become a pocket tissue for our politicians: they take it out only to blow their noses with a loud trumpeting sound. For all other purposes it is useless, discarded and trampled on at will.

In Pakistan, constitutions, amendments to constitutions and other rules come and go with the frequency of governments, and none of them seem to apply to the governments themselves.

According to Mr S.M. Zafar, this event has led to a violation of Article 104 of our Constitution. I presume he means that since the absence from the province of the Governor (the constitutional head of the province) was not disclosed, his office lay vacant for a period of time, which is a violation of this Act.

Also, given the absence of the Governor from the province, the Speaker of the Assembly takes over his position, which means that he is for the period of his custodianship, ineligible to act as Speaker. However, since Mr Taseer had neglected to inform the Assembly of his inability to attend the session (the neglect in itself an unconstitutional act), the Speaker carried on as Speaker, while all the while he ought to have been in position as acting Governor.

Its all very complicated. What stands out clearly is the fact that the Governor by virtue of his prolonged absence and failure to inform relevant persons of the fact has demonstrated his disdain of the law.

Is such a person eligible for the high office of Governorship of a province?

It was Albert Einstein who said that Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. Or are not enforced, which is one way of not only a government losing respect, but of demonstrating its lack of respect for itself, not to mention the law of the land they are supposed to be governing.

Is such a government eligible to be in the position it holds?