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30-Second Prisoner

A register of reports and views from the Pakistan press

Written by Ruchika Talwar | Published: April 28, 2012 12:34:31 am

30-SECOND PRISONER

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s contempt of court case for non-implementation of court orders in the National Reconciliation Ordinance case has been progressing over the past few months. The tempo increased every time his lawyer,Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan,appeared to plead his case. On April 26,Gilani appeared in court. As the hearing proceeded,he was pronounced guilty of contempt of court. Everyone expected the judge to read out the punishment for this crime: jail for six months,a fine of Rs 1 lakh and in the PM’s case,relinquishing office. Nothing of the sort happened. Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani,prime minister,was awarded a “symbolic” punishment of being taken into custody till the rising of the court. He served a 30-second sentence,and that too in a courtroom. He returned to his cabinet meeting shortly thereafter.

The judgment in the case is yet to come but Daily Times printed the short order on April 27,which stated that Gilani “is found guilty and convicted for contempt of court under Article 204(2) of the Constitution read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003,for willful flouting,disregard and disobedience of this court’s direction contained in paragraph 178 of the NRO judgment,after our (the bench’s) satisfaction that 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 regards the sentence to be passed against the convict,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 (ordinance 5 of 2003) with imprisonment till the rising of the court today.” Another report in Daily Times said that during the cabinet meeting that Gilani chaired after returning from court,he remarked that “politics was a ‘horror movie’ that only adults could watch and not the weak”. Gilani and his legal team have decided to appeal the order.

OPPOSITION IS OPPOSED

THE opposition demanded Gilani’s resignation following the conviction. The Express Tribune reported on April 27: “ ‘(The) PM should immediately resign’,PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif said… calling for fresh elections. PTI chief Imran Khan,holding a press conference,stated that Gilani… is no longer the PM of Pakistan. ‘He has lost all moral authority,so he should quit office from today’. The PTI chief added that Gilani is only standing for the president of the country,rather than standing for the people and criticised all political leaders who joined the PM in the Supreme Court.”

Gilani spoke in Parliament the next day and refused to demit office,Dawn reported on April 27. PML-N members staged a walkout in protest. Gilani,however,stressed he had “protected the Constitution of this country”,and was convicted for doing so. He also challenged the PML-N to table a vote of no-confidence against him. The News added that during this address to the National Assembly,Gilani said that it was now only the Speaker of the House who could de-notify him as a member of Parliament.

Pakistan’s Constitution states that the speaker has to decide within 30 days of being forwarded the court’s verdict if the PM can be disqualified from parliament. In case the speaker is unable to do so for whatever reason,the case should be be referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan. The Express Tribune’s sister channel,Express News,reported on April 27 that a copy of the verdict to the speaker,Fehmida Mirza,and the ECP.

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