Pakistan’s Supreme Court Rules Gilani No Longer Prime Minister

On April 26, Pakistan’s Supreme Court found Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in contempt of court for his refusal to ask Switzerland to re-open a corruption investigation into President Asif Ali Zardari. Today, the Supreme Court ruled that as a result of that conviction, Gilani is no longer Prime Minister (and has not been so since the April conviction).

From Reuters:

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday declared Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani ineligible for office, plunging the country into another political crisis.

In April, the Supreme Court found Gilani guilty of contempt of court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against the president. Gilani’s lawyer, Fawad Chaudhry, said only parliament could dismiss the prime minister.

“Since no appeal was filed (against the April 26 conviction) … therefore Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani stands disqualifed as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament)…,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in a packed courtroom.

Dawn brings us more:

“Yousuf Raza Gilani has become disqualified from being member of the parliament,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, reading the order.

“He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan with effect from the same date (April 26) and office of the prime minister shall be deemed to be vacant accordingly.

“The Election Commission is required to issue notification of disqualification… The president is required to take necessary steps under the constitution to ensure continuation of democratic process through parliamentary system of government in the country,” he added.

A three-member bench, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain heard a set of constitutional petitions challenging National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza’s ruling over the reference against Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The Express Tribune cites a report by the Express News that Gilani will have 30 days to appeal the ruling. The Tribune also reports that the PPP, the political party of Zardari and Gilani, is holding an emergency meeting. There also is increased security in the government zone:

Security in the Red Zone has been put on high-alert, while a heavy contingent of police has also been deployed at the Gilani House in Multan.

It will be very interesting to see how Zardari and the PPP choose to go forward from this point. Will they simply support an appeal of the Supreme Court ruling, even though they did not appeal the initial contempt ruling? Will they instead choose a new Prime Minister and seek to finish the current term until elections next year? Will they choose to call early elections?

Whatever course Zardari and the PPP choose, Pakistan is now in uncharted waters. I have seen no reports, however, suggesting that the military plans to step in and take control of the government during this crisis. That is a major step forward for democratic processess as the judiciary and the elected government seek to find a way to move forward.

Update: Dawn is now reporting that the PPP has decided not to call for early elections and will instead name a new Prime Minister within 24 hours.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
7 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    In the AP’s version:

    “…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…


    …Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a professor at Lahore University of Management Science, said the Zardari government was unlikely to accept the court’s decision.

    “The political situation is not likely to be decided very peacefully I am afraid. It will be decided by demonstrations,” he said.

    If Gilani does not step down, the Supreme Court could call on the president or the military to enforce the decision, Rais said.

    “Pakistan is in a real mess,” he said.”

    And in watching the BBC News on cable just now, their reporter said that one of the ironic parts of this whole brouhaha was the fact that Prime Minister Gilani really isn’t the issue, but that President Zardari’s purported corruption is the real issue.

  2. Jim White says:

    See the update. It appears that the PPP has decided to name a new Prime Minister within 24 hours and does not plan to call early elections.

  3. solbus says:

    “I have seen no reports, however, suggesting that the military plans to step in and take control of the government during this crisis.”

    Well that’s because their military already does control their government. Armed with that, you have the latest double epilogue.

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