Gilani convicted, opposition demands his ouster (Second Lead)

April 26th, 2012 - 4:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Islamabad, April 26 (IANS) Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was Thursday convicted for contempt of court and awarded a symbolic sentence of about 30 seconds by the Supreme Court, prompting shrill calls from the opposition for his ouster.

Gilani’s future continues to remain clouded after his conviction and sentencing till the rising of the court with opposition leaders quick to demand his resignation and a minister insisting that an appeal would be filed against the verdict.

The sentencing lasted for barely 30 seconds, a reprieve for the 56-year-old prime minister who could have been jailed for six months.

The judgment was not proper, said Gilani, whom the apex court held guilty of contempt of court for refusing to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Gilani, who was handpicked by Zardari as the Pakistan Peoples Party’s choice for the prime ministerial job in the ruling coalition, told Geo News that he asked for justice and hoped that legal formalities would be met.

Legal aides will decide about appealing against the verdict, he added.

The prime minister waved to his supporters as he walked out of the heavily guarded Supreme Court premises.

Gilani was convicted by a seven-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, for violating an article of Pakistan’s constitution, said DawnNews.

“For reasons to be recorded later, the prime minister is found guilty of contempt for wilfully flouting the direction of the Supreme Court,” said Justice Nasirul Mulk.

Soon thereafter, federal minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the petition would be filed in the apex court for a review of the verdict.

She added that the course of action would be decided once the detailed verdict is received.

Awan said the verdict will hurt democracy in Pakistan and “the country cannot afford any adventurism”.

“PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) has always been victimised,” she was quoted as saying.

Gilani refused to act on the court’s directives in the past to reopen corruption cases against Zardari, arguing that the president enjoys immunity under the Pakistani constitution.

Accused of graft, Zardari had been granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf to facilitate his return home and, primarily that of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The NRO that granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases was struck down by the Supreme Court as void in 2009.

The apex court warned the government of action if its ruling on the NRO was not implemented by Jan 10, 2012. It also ordered the government to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against Zardari.

On Jan 16, the court issued Gilani a contempt notice for not acting against Zardari.

Gilani was indicted for contempt of court Feb 13.

The opposition call for Gilani’s ouster grew stronger immediately after his conviction by the court.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif said Gilani should step down from his position after being convicted by the apex court.

Nawaz Sharif told Geo News that the prime minister should pave way for a new elected prime minister.

“In light of the verdict, I think PM Gilani should resign immediately rather than prolong the issue,” he was quoted as saying.

Sharif wanted the government to hold elections immediately and appoint a neutral prime minister who would write the letter to Swiss authorities.

Commenting on the verdict, Sharif said: “I fully believe the Supreme Court has the high moral ground while the government is standing on the wrong wicket.”

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and former cricketer Imran Khan too said that Gilani should immediately resign.

Imran wrote on Twitter: “After SC judgement PM has lost whatever shred of legal & moral authority he had. He must resign immed & ECP must notify his 5 year disqual.”

“PTI will stand by the law & SC. We cannot accept any pol defiance/ridicule of SC decision. Rule of law & indep of Judiciary must be upheld,” said his another tweet.

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