Pakistan Supreme Court disqualifies prime minister
ISLAMABAD, (Reuters) – Pakistan’s increasingly assertive Supreme Court declared Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani ineligible for office yesterday, plunging the country into fresh turmoil as it deals with Islamic militancy, a weak economy and a crisis in relations with the United States.
However, there seems to be no immediate threat to the stability of the government since the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has a comfortable majority in parliament.
But the move is bound to sharply raise tensions between the unpopular civilian government and Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who has made a name for himself in recent years by taking on Pakistan’s most powerful figures.
In April, the Supreme Court found Gilani guilty of contempt of court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
“Yusuf Raza Gilani stands disqualified as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament),” said Chaudhry, in a packed courtroom. “He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan … the office of the prime minister stands vacant.”
Fawad Chaudhry, a senior Gilani aide, said only parliament could dismiss the prime minister, a view shared by analysts.
However, within hours of the Supreme Court decision, state television reported that the Election Commission of Pakistan had issued the official notification of Gilani’s disqualification. The ruling can be challenged.