Pakistan apex court ousts Gilani from PM post
ISLAMABAD PAKISTAN’s top court ruled on Tuesday that the prime minister was no longer eligible to hold office due to an earlier contempt conviction, ushering in fresh political turmoil in the nuclear-armed country.
The verdict by the Supreme Court was a major blow against Yousuf Reza Gilani, who has been hanging on to office for months in the face of opposition by the judges.
Gilani and his party, the largest in the ruling coalition, were holding an emergency meeting to discuss the verdict.
Also, Pakistan’s election commission on Tuesday issued a formal notice disqualifying Gilani as a member of parliament as ordered by the Supreme Court.
The commission backdated the disqualification to April 26, the date that Gilani was convicted of contempt for refusing to ask Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against the president.
In the past, the party has said it would have the numbers in parliament to elect a new premier if Gilani was ousted by the court.
But some aides have suggested that the prime minister might try to hold on. If Gilani were to resist the order, it could spark institutional deadlock and social unrest, even raising the possibility of the army staging a coup as it has done three times in the country’s past.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court ordered the country’s election commission to formally dismiss Gilani and said he had not legally been the prime minister since April 26, when the court convicted him for contempt for refusing to open a corruption probe against his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari, dating back to the 1990s and involving the jurisdiction of courts in Switzerland.
“The office of the prime minister shall be deemed to be vacant accordingly,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry, who then ordered Zardari to begin the process of electing a new premier.
The ruling was the culmination of a process that began in a Supreme Court decision in 2009 ordering the government to ask authorities in Switzer-land to reopen the cases against Zardari. Gilani refused, saying the president had immunity from prosecution so long as he was in office, and in January the court ordered contempt proceedings against him.
Gilani has been refusing to step down, saying he has done nothing wrong and accusing the Supreme Court’s chief justice of having a vendetta against him and his party.