Islamabad, June 19 (IBNS): Pakistan plunged into political uncertainty on Tuesday after the Pakistan Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from holding his office.
The move drastically escalated a growing confrontation between the government and the judiciary, seen widely represented by Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who has made a name for himself in recent years by taking on Pakistan's most powerful figures.
"Yusuf Raza Gilani stands disqualified as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament). He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan ... the office of the prime minister stands vacant,” Chaudhry declared in a packed courtroom.
However supporters of Gilani said only parliament could dismiss the prime minister but the decision was undoubtedly seen as a blow to the country’s unpopular coalition government led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
Experts said a more serious crisis could be avoided if the ruling coalition finds another Prime Minister even though GIlani in late April had said he will not resign from his political chair after his contempt of court conviction.
“I am an elected prime minister, representing 180 million people. How can anybody order an elected prime minister to go home?” he had said.
“Only the Speaker of the house, who is the custodian of this house, has the authority to decide. I am ready to quit if this parliament disqualifies me.”
Gilani said he has not committed a crime for which he has to resign.
“I have not committed a crime, I have done nothing wrong but I have protected the constitution of this country,” he said.
“I don’t have ego issues, I am the longest serving prime minister of this country,” he said. "I was congratulated on the conviction, more times than I was on becoming the prime minister. I was congratulated for protecting the Constitution of this country.”
Gilani, who is the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Pakistan, challenged opposition Pakistan Muslim League (N) to “bring a vote of no confidence” against him.
Pakistan's Supreme Court in April had found Gilani guilty of contempt of court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against the President Asif Ali Zardari, but gave him only a symbolic sentence of a few minutes' detention in the courtroom.
The decision only heightened political tensions in the nuclear-armed Islamic state as opposition leader Nawaz Sharif immediately demanded Gilani's resignation and some lawyers said the ruling automatically disqualified him from holding the post of prime minister.
Gilani's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, said the premier, who became the first serving prime minister in Pakistan's history to be convicted by a court, would appeal against the ruling, hinting at the possibility of the uncertainty over his fate dragging on for months.