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Updated: May 8, 2012 23:33 IST

Gilani's fate hangs in balance

Anita Joshua
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Yousuf Raza Gilani
Yousuf Raza Gilani

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday made it clear that it held Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in contempt of court because his persistent defiance of the highest judiciary could be substantially detrimental to the administration of justice.

In its detailed order — issued 13 days after the short order that sentenced Mr. Gilani to a 37-second symbolic arrest on April 26 — the Supreme Court said this was a case where the highest executive functionary of the country had wilfully, deliberately and persistently defied a clear direction of the highest court of the land.

The Prime Minister was held in contempt for repeatedly refusing to write to the Swiss authorities asking them to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The government's contention had been that Mr. Zardari enjoys presidential immunity as long as he is in office.

According to the court, such wilful defiance of the apex court's orders brings the judiciary of the country into ridicule. “After all, if orders or directions of the highest court of the country are defied by the highest Executive of the country then others in the country may also feel tempted to follow the example leading to a collapse or paralysis of administration of justice besides creating an atmosphere wherein judicial authority and verdicts are laughed at and ridiculed.”

The detailed 77-page order dwells at length on the course of the case that goes back to the National Reconciliation Ordinance promulgated by the former President, Pervez Musharraf, to provide amnesty to a number of politicians, bureaucrats and generals. And, once again it makes only a passing reference to Article 63(1)(g) which provides for disqualification of a parliamentarian for ridiculing the court.

The detailed order was released a couple of hours after Mr. Gilani left the country on a scheduled visit to the United Kingdom. Simultaneously, it renewed the heated discussion in the country over the fate of the Prime Minister who had dug his heels in after the court convicted him on April 26.

Soon after the short order was issued, the Prime Minister's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, had said they would appeal against the verdict once the detailed order came.

The Prime Minister's legal team has 30 days to appeal. Meanwhile, pressure is being mounted on National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza to refer the matter to the Election Commission. As per the laid down procedure, if she fails to do so within 30 days, it automatically goes to the Election Commission.

Opinions varied on whether the Speaker could await a final decision on the appeal before referring the matter to the Election Commission while the Pakistan Peoples Party maintained that Mr. Gilani had not been disqualified as he had been tried for disobeying the court and not ridiculing the court — in which case Article 63(1)(g) comes into play.

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