ABOUT two months after Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was convicted of contempt of court, the nation’s Supreme Court yesterday compounded his political woes by disqualifying him from office and parliament.
According to the court, Gilani had “ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan.”
However, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday cancelled a visit to Russia in a bid to contain the domestic crisis sparked by the Supreme Court, a spokesman said.
Zardari was due to attend the June 20 to June 22 St Petersburg International Economic Forum but would now hold talks with coalition partners “to consider the situation (at home) and formulate a course of action,” his spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said.
The Supreme Court had in April convicted Gilani of failing to pursue corruption charges against Zardari. The prime minister was given only a token sentence and spared a jail term.
The legal case, a report by the British Broadcasting Corporation stated, is part of a bitter feud between Pakistan’s civilian government and the judiciary.
“Since no appeal was filed (against the 26 April conviction)… therefore Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani stands disqualified as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament),” Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry told a packed courtroom.
He added: “He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan… the office of the prime minister stands vacant.”
The court backdated the disqualification to April 26, raising questions over decisions Gilani has made in office since then, including the budget.
The charges against President Zardari date back to the 1990s when his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister. They were accused of using Swiss bank accounts to launder bribe money.
Zardari has always insisted the charges against him are politically motivated.
The Supreme Court ordered Gilani’s government to write to the Swiss authorities to ask them to reopen the cases against Zardari.