Pak PM convicted in contempt case
Served Token Sentence By SC
REZAUL H LASKAR\PTI
Islamabad, Apr 26: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was Thursday convicted by the Supreme Court for contempt for refusing to pursue graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and was given only token sentence but still questions remained over his membership of Parliament.
Soon after a 7-member bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk gave the judgement and sentenced him till the rising of the court, which was all over in 30 seconds, 56-year-old Gilani faced calls for resignation from the post of prime minister.
Gilani's detractors including PMN-L chief Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan have said he has lost his moral authority to continue in the post.
However, the Pakistan cabinet decided to appeal against Gilani's conviction and that there was no need for him to resign. The court convicted Gilani of contempt for failing to act on repeated orders to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland. Gilani and the government had refused to act against Zardari, saying the President enjoyed complete immunity in Pakistan and abroad.
During the brief proceedings, the court, which spared the Prime Minister from a jail term, noted that its verdict under article 63 would have “serious consequences” for him and did not invoke it.
Instead, it held him guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him “till the rising of the court” or till the completion of the hearing.
The judges left the court immediately after announcing the verdict, effectively ending Gilani's sentence.
“For reasons to be recorded later, the prime minister is found guilty of contempt for willfully flouting the direction of the Supreme Court,” Justice Mulk said.
“We note that our findings and the conviction for the contempt of court recorded are likely to entail some serious consequences in terms of Article 63(1g) of the Constitution,” the bench said in a short order.
Experts said this left the door open for the initiation of the process for the disqualification of Gilani, Pakistan's longest serving Prime Minister.
However, the Speaker of the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament will have 30 days to decide on such a move and the Election Commission a further 90 days – effectively meaning that the premier can remain in office for four more months.
The entire proceedings in the courtroom number 4 lasted less than 10 minutes. The judges left the court immediately after announcing the verdict, effectively ending Gilani's sentence.
Emerging from the heavily guarded court, Gilani told the media: “We had sought justice. The decision was not appropriate”.
A visibly dejected Prime Minister, accompanied by his sons, shook hands with his team and members of the federal cabinet after hearing the verdict.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir described the verdict as “unconstitutional and unlawful”.
The Pakistan cabinet which met hours after the judgement decided to appeal against Gilani's conviction, with the premier's lawyer saying the Supreme Court's verdict was “beyond the scope” of the charges framed against him.
Gilani's lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, said: “The Prime Minister, the cabinet and (the Pakistan People's Party's) allies have decided to appeal this order and I've been authorized to prepare the appeal”.
The government has 30 days to file the appeal, Ahsan told a news conference at which Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira too was present.
Once the appeal is filed, the apex court will have to hear the matter afresh and any grounds for the possible disqualification of the premier "cannot survive", Ahsan said.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 26 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 26 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 27 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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