ISLAMANBAD (April 26, 2012) : Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan has ruled that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is guilty of contempt for refusing to obey an order to write to the authorities in Switzerland to ask them to re-open corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, Geo News reported Thursday.
“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 Nasir-ul-Mulk.
Prime Minister Gilani stood before the SC to hear the verdict in contempt case for not implementing the apex court’s ruling on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).
PM Gilani was punished till the rising of the court for violating Article 63 (1)(g) of the Constitution that states:
“A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if he has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or morality, or the maintenance of public order, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.”
A seven-member SC bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk on Tuesday reserved the judgment in the contempt case against PM Yousuf Raza Gilani and ruled that the verdict will be announced Thursday.
Gilani had faced a maximum sentence of six months in prison, but the court ordered him to be “imprisoned” until the hearing adjourned and he emerged shortly afterwards smiling and waving to supporters.
The question now is whether he will be disqualified from office, which would add to political instability in the country.
Under Pakistan’s constitution anyone convicted of defaming or ridiculing the judiciary is barred from being an MP, but legal experts say the process to disqualify Gilani could be a lengthy one, involving the parliamentary speaker and the Election Commission.
“For reasons to be recorded later Prime Minister and chief executive Yousuf Raza Gilani is found guilty and convicted for contempt of court,” Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, the head of the seven-judge Supreme Court bench, said.
Mulk said the conviction was “likely to entail serious consequences” for Gilani, and this was taken in mitigation with regards to his sentence.
“He is therefore punished under section five of contempt of court ordinance with imprisonment till rising of the court,” the judge said.
The case has been highly politically charged, with members of the government accusing judges of over-stepping their reach and of trying to bring down the prime minister and president, a year before the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete an elected term.
The corruption allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he former premier Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder about $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.
The Swiss shelved the cases in 2008 when Zardari became president and a prosecutor in Switzerland has said it will be impossible to re-open them as long as he remains head of state and so is immune from prosecution.
Prime Minister Gilani insisted the president has full immunity, but in December 2009 the Supreme Court overturned a political amnesty that had frozen investigations into the president and other politicians.
Gilani left the court amid a scrum of journalists and supporters from his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Security was tight outside the court for the hearing, with around 200 riot police armed with shields and batons stationed outside and approaches closed to the public.