Pakistani PM faces possibility of disqualification: court

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 Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani faces the possibility of being disqualified as a member of parliament for five years following his conviction of contempt of court last month, the country’s top court ruled on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court issued a 77-page detailed verdict regarding the prime minister’s conviction for refusing to accept the court’ s orders to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland, reported Xinhua.

Earlier, the court had delivered a short order, convicting Gilani for contempt and giving him a symbolic sentence of less than a minute on April 26. In the short order too, the same bench had observed that Gilani faced possible disqualification.

“Apart from other consequences, a possible conviction on such a charge may entail a disqualification from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or a Provincial Assembly for at least a period of five years,” the court said in its detailed judgment.

The seven-judge bench enumerated reasons for the conviction of the prime minister and analyzed the evidence that was presented during his trial in the detailed order.

The detailed order said “the highest executive functionary of the state of Pakistan” had “wilfully, deliberately and persistently defied a clear direction of the highest court of the country.”

Such “clear and persistent defiance at such a high level constitutes contempt which is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice” and brings the judiciary into ridicule, it said.

“After all, if orders or directions of the highest court of the country are defied by the highest executive of the country, then others in the country may also feel tempted to follow the example, leading to a collapse or paralysis of administration of justice, besides creating an atmosphere wherein judicial authority and verdicts are laughed at and ridiculed,” the detailed order said.

Former Supreme Court judge Shaeq Usmani said the speaker of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, is now bound to send a reference against the prime minister to the Election Commission.

“The speaker will work just as a post office and cannot even apply his own mind,” Usmani said.

Former Law Minister Wasi Zafar told the media that Gilani’s case would not go to the speaker and the speaker will decide whether the matter should be referred to the chief election commissioner.

If the speaker decides to send the matter to the Election Commission, then the Election Commission will decide on the issue of disqualification, Zafar said.

Gilani, who Tuesday embarked on a five-day official visit to Britain, has rejected demands from the opposition for his resignation after his conviction. He has said that only the speaker of the National Assembly can decide on his disqualification.

Under the existing rules, the speaker has 30 days to consider the issue of disqualification, following which the Election Commission has a further 90 days to decide the issue if it is referred to the panel.

The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive the cases against Zardari since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. The government has refused to act, saying the president enjoys complete immunity in Pakistan and abroad.

The apex court’s detailed order could exacerbate the ongoing standoff between the Pakistan People’s Party-led government and the judiciary, which some commentators have accused of acting in an impartial manner against Zardari and Gilani.

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