Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani was on Thursday held in contempt of court and sentenced to imprisonment till the rising of a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court hearing the case. Within seconds of reading out its short order, the Bench rose ending the “arrest” of the Premier but triggering a slew of demands for his resignation since he is now technically a “convict.”
Soon after he walked away from the court a free man, Mr. Gilani convened a meeting of the Cabinet which decided that he would remain in office. According to Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, all allies of the Pakistan Peoples Party-led coalition were supportive of this decision.
Given the media narrative which pronounced the Prime Minister disqualified from the National Assembly, Mr. Kaira maintained that his conviction does not automatically lead to disqualification as there is a parliamentary process for the latter.
In its order, the court said Mr. Gilani “is found guilty of and convicted for contempt of court” as “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”.
As for the sentence, the order said: “We note that the findings and the conviction for contempt of court recorded above are likely to entail some serious consequences in terms of Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution which may be treated as mitigating factors towards the sentence to be passed against him.
He is, therefore, punished under Article 5 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance with imprisonment till the rising of the court today [Thursday].”
Pointing out that the Cabinet had asked him to prepare an appeal against the order, Mr. Gilani's lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan said the verdict was beyond the scope of indictment as the Prime Minister was never charged with ridiculing the court. Article 63(1)(g) provides for disqualification from Parliament if a member has been convicted of defaming or bringing the judiciary into ridicule. “My client was never put to trial for ridiculing the court. The charge against him was of disobedience of a court order.”
The short order would be taken with all respect and seriousness, Mr. Ahsan said, adding that it would be referred to the Speaker of the National Assembly. Further, he disclosed that Mr. Gilani went to court in the morning prepared to go to the Adiala jail. “He had come to court with all his things.”
Soon after the court sentenced the Prime Minister, his political opponents — Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf — demanded his resignation.