The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled Speaker National Assembly Fehmida Mirza’s ruling as void and declared that Yousuf Raza Gilani stood disqualified since April 26.
The Supreme Court announced the move after convicting Gilani on April 26 of contempt for refusing to ask Switzerland to reopen a multi-million-dollar corruption investigation into President Asif Ali Zardari.
“Yousuf Raza Gilani has become disqualified from being member of the parliament,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, reading the order.
“He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan with effect from the same date (April 26) and office of the prime minister shall be deemed to be vacant accordingly.
“The Election Commission is required to issue notification of disqualification… The president is required to take necessary steps under the constitution to ensure continuation of democratic process through parliamentary system of government in the country,” he added.
A three-member bench, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain heard a set of constitutional petitions challenging National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza’s ruling over the reference against Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The bench had been hearing a set of petitions filed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), Azhar Chaudhry advocate and others challenging the speaker’s ruling of May 24 over the qualification issue.
Earlier during today’s hearing, Attorney General Irfan Qadir presented in court the National Assembly’s resolution endorsing the speaker’s ruling. The resolution had been moved by the government and wasadopted by the NA on June 14.
“We respect the courts, however, state institutions should try to avoid clash amongst themselves,” the Attorney General said.
Upon which the Chief Justice remarked that the judiciary respected the parliament and that there was no clash between the state’s institutions.
Justice Khilji remarked that the court’s duty was to interpret the law and the constitution and to stop all measures which violate these.
Qadir said that if the court issued an order against the speaker’s ruling, the parliament would declare it invalid.
The attorney general said that the court had violated Article 248 of the Constitution and that he feared that the court may issue “another ruling which could be against the law”.
Qadir reiterated that the verdict of the seven judge bench in the contempt of court case against Prime Minister Gilani was unconstitutional.
Justice Khilji remarked that the attorney general should provide evidence for his claim that the country had no law to address contempt of court.
The prime minister’s summoning in court was also against the law, Qadir said.
Furthermore, Qadir said that the immunity which the office of the President enjoyed could only be eliminated by the parliament.
He moreover said that the Supreme Court’s ruling ridiculed the prime minister through poetry adding that he would not support any verdict which would be unconstitutional.
Chief Justice Iftikhar said that the attorney general’s job was to assist the court and that the bench was noting down the arguments that he was making before it.
Background to disqualification
Gilani, Pakistan’s first ever sitting prime minister to be convicted, has faced down widespread calls from the opposition to quit. He has said that only parliament can remove him from office.
Under the constitution, anyone convicted of defaming or ridiculing the judiciary is barred from being an MP.
The matter of disqualification fell first to the speaker of parliament, Fehmida Mirza, a member of the main ruling Pakistan People’s Party, who on May 24 said conviction for contempt was not a charge that meant he should be disqualified under the constitution.
Gilani subsequently decided not to appeal his conviction in a move interpreted as an effort not to antagonise the court into disqualifying him.
But senior opposition politicians, including Imran Khan and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, challenged the ruling.
The allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder about $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.
The Swiss shelved the cases in 2008 when Zardari became president.
Gilani has always insisted Zardari has full immunity as head of state and last month said that writing to the Swiss would be a violation of the constitution.
He was briefly — but symbolically — held in the courtroom for his sentence, which ended as soon as the judges arose for the day after announcing the verdict.