Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Turmoil In Pakistan: Supreme Court Ousts Prime Minister Gilani

Pakistan's political situation has been anything but serene since Pervez Musharaf lost power. Yousuf Raza Gilani was elected Prime Minister but he's run afoul of the Supreme Court once again for failing to investigate and prosecute claims of corruption against Asif Ali Zardari, the country's president.

Today, the court essentially booted him from office.
Local television news stations said leaders of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party were huddled in an emergency meeting and seemed poised to accept the court’s decision and nominate a different leader to the prime minister’s spot, diffusing some of the tension.

“Yousuf Raza Gilani has been disqualified from the membership of parliament from April 26, which is the date of his conviction, and he has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry read from the court order, according to reports by Geo news and other television channels.

“The election commission shall issue a notice of disqualification and the president is also required to take all necessary steps to ensure the continuation of democratic process in the country.”

But the Associated Press quoted Fawad Chaudhry, an aide to Gilani, saying that Gilani would continue his duties and only the parliament could disqualify the prime minister.

Legal experts were debating whether the disqualification could render moot Gilani’s legislative activity since April 26, including passage of Pakistan’s budget. Some said the court’s decision probably would invalidate at least some of Gilani’s actions over the past eight weeks.

“The prime minister should have left his office back in April, when he was convicted for contempt of court, but he decided to stick to his slot illegally,” retired judge Wajihuddin Ahmed told Geo TV. He said that he thought Gilani’s “day-to-day government affairs” work would likely stand but that other official acts could be declared invalid.

Gilani’s conviction stemmed from his adamant refusal to pursue money-laundering and kickback cases brought by Swiss authorities against Zardari; he faced up to six months in prison but was never sentenced.
This also throws the US-Pakistan relationship into limbo as well as counter terrorism efforts in the frontier provinces. The PPP will try to maintain a veneer of normalcy but this is anything but normal.

All the political turmoil adds to an unstable political and economic situation, including power shortages and riots, and ongoing terrorism in the frontier provinces. The government has been ineffective to resolve any of the issues confronting it.

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