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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Exit of Yusuf Raza Gilani deepens Pakistan's political crisis

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, June 21, IRNA -- Yusuf Raza Gilani lost the post of Prime Minister in a row of contempt of court as he had refused to accept the Supreme Court’s repeated orders to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The exit of Gilani has pushed Pakistan towards a political crisis at a time when relationship with the US is at the lowest and internally worst power shortage has hit Pakistan.

The controversy started when the Supreme Court scraped a Musharraf-Era amnesty law which had dropped all corruption cases of President Zardari, his slain wife Benazir Bhutto and nearly 8,000 people mostly politicians.

Musharraf's law entitled the National Reconciliation Order, or NRO, halted proceedings against Benazir and Zardari in the Swiss courts.

Gilani had refused to accept the court's orders, saying the President enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad. Gilani had appeared in the apex court twice before and had decided to fight the case.

He was formally indicted with contempt of court on February 13, but he insisted that he would prefer to go to prison and face disqualification but will not approach the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases against the president.

The former Prime Minister has always insisted during the proceedings that he had done nothing against the government's rules of business.

Pakistan's Supreme Court on April 26 had found Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani guilty of contempt of court.

A seven-judge bench headed by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk convicted Prime Minister until the rising of the court. The Prime Minister was not arrested and he left the court room after the judges ended the proceedings.

Under Pakistan's Constitution, anyone convicted of 'defaming or ridiculing' the judiciary is barred from being a member of parliament.

Gillani was elected Prime minister of Pakistan in March 2008 after his Pakistan Peoples Party won a considerable victory in the parliamentary elections.

As per the orders of the Supreme Court the Election Commission of Pakistan had formally declared, Yusuf Raza Gilani, disqualified from holding the parliament membership.

Soon after the disqualification President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), started hectic consultations to review the fast changing situation and the imminent challenges for his government.

Opposition figures have hailed the court's decision, saying this was a victory for the rule of law. However, some observers have accused Supreme Court of overstepping boundaries in recent years.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has said that by consistently disobeying the court order to re-open corruption cases against Zardari, Gilani not only dishonored the judiciary but also hurt his own dignity.

However, apart from the many problems besetting the country, the question of whether the government will obey the orders of the Supreme Court remains undecided.

The PPP needs to reconsider its role, and what it has become. It is to be assumed that it does not want again to put the country, and itself, through the trauma which led to Gilani’s removal from office.

The new Prime Minister must be given clear instructions that the Supreme Court is to be obeyed, and that means that the letter to the Swiss authorities about the corruption case involving President Asif Ali Zardari must be written.

The previous Prime Minister paid the price for being more obedient to the decisions of the party than to those of the Supreme Court.

Makhdoom Shahabuddin is set to be elected Pakistan's new prime minister on Friday when the National Assembly or Lower House of the parliament will elect new leader of the house. He would be Pakistan's 17th Prime Minister.

Shahabuddin is considered a strong loyalist to the PPP and political analysts say that President Zardari thinks the new Prime Minister would stand like Gilani against any possible orders by the Supreme Court for reopening corruption cases.

**2050
Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 80193974



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