Islamabad, April 26 (IANS) In fresh trouble for Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Supreme Court Thursday convicted him for contempt of court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, prompting the opposition to demand his ouster.
Gilani, 59, who is the first Pakistan prime minister to be held guilty for contempt, was given just a symbolic sentence of about 30 seconds but could have been jailed for six months.
He found backing in his cabinet colleagues but the future continues to remain clouded with the opposition firm on its demand that he quit.
His government has come under increasing strain ever since Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was gunned down in Abbottabad last year. Its ties with the US also worsened following a NATO attack that left two dozen Pakistani soldiers dead in November last year.
The Supreme Court order said "the contempt committed by him is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice and tends to bring this Court and the judiciary of this country into ridicule", reported Geo News.
The judgment was not proper, complained Gilani, after the apex court held him guilty of contempt for refusing to write to Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against Zardari.
Gilani, handpicked by Zardari as the Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) prime minister in March 2008, 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 opposition call for Gilani's ouster grew stronger immediately after the court's ruling.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif said Gilani should make 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.
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 (Election Commission of Pakistan) must notify his 5 year disqual."
Gilani had been 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.
Soon after, federal minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said a petition would be filed for a review of the verdict.
Awan said the verdict will hurt democracy in Pakistan and "the country cannot afford any adventurism".
"PPP has always been victimised," she was quoted as saying.
Gilani had 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.
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