The Pakistani Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that Yousuf Raza Gilani stood disqualified as prime minister as well as MP since the apex court’s April 26 verdict holding him in contempt of court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
In April, Yousuf Raza Gilani was convicted of contempt of court for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The case was one of a number of legal tussles that pitted a highly politicised chief justice against a weakened civilian government, trying to shore up a fractious coalition.
Yesterday, the government was dealt a surprise blow that now threatens a fresh round of political instability, in a country that has seen three military coups in its short history.
“Yousuf Raza Gilani is disqualified from membership of parliament from April 26, the date of his conviction. He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan,” said Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, chief justice, reading the order.
Gilani’s supporters declared the decision unconstitutional and said the prime minister would continue in office. Fawad Chaudhry, special adviser to the prime minister, said the case was highly political and designed to deflect attention from the chief justice’s own problems.
“There’s an allegation of $4m against the Chief Justice’s son which is now being investigated,” he said. “So it looks very much as if this case is designed to deflect attention from that.”
The ruling means the governing Pakistan People’s Party could seek to install a new prime minister but elections due early next year, it could struggle to find a consensus candidate.
Instead, a legal insider said the government would seek parliament’s support in challenging the court’s decision.