Gilani contempt: Convicted

Published: April 27, 2012
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PM Gilani escorted by security as he leaves the Supreme Court. PHOTO: AFP

PM Gilani escorted by security as he leaves the Supreme Court. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court on Thursday convicted a sitting chief executive, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, in a contempt case.

If the conviction was historic, the sentence was largely symbolic – detaining the prime minister in courtroom number 4 till the “rising of the court” or about 37 seconds to be precise.

“For reasons to be recorded later, the prime minister is found guilty of contempt for wilfully flouting the direction of the Supreme Court,” said Justice Nasirul Mulk, heading the seven-member bench delivering the verdict.

However, the prime minister’s counsel later declared that the conviction would be challenged.

Run-up to the verdict

Earlier on Thursday, the sun rose to a frenzied capital.

Riot police and elite security personnel lined the path leading to the Supreme Court, as helicopters hovered in the airspace above.

A lone commando carrying an AK47 stood guard under the national flag, hoisted at the top of the apex court building.

Enthusiastic journalists took their positions inside and outside the courtroom, wondering if the day will bring an end to months of speculation on the prime minister’s future.

First to arrive at the venue was Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, who headed straight to television cameras and said: “Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has always been victimised … but we have not lost hope.”

At 9:10am, the premier’s motorcade appeared on Constitution Avenue.

Unlike last time, when Gilani arrived at the court in his SUV, this time he drove up to the court in a sedan.

Dressed in a black Sherwani, the prime minister stepped out of the driving seat, and was swarmed by ministers who were waiting for him. An eager Rehman Malik stepped forward to hug the premier.

Flanked by his cabinet colleagues, security and supporters, the premier headed to courtroom number 4 – he reached there by 9:20am.

The bench arrived at 9:38pm – eight minutes late – and the judges started to sign the two orders they were about to announce.

Gilani went to the rostrum, along with his counsel Aitzaz Ahsan, and Justice Mulk started reading out the order.

First order

“For the reasons to be recorded later, the accused Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Prime Minister of Pakistan/Chief Executive of the federation, is found guilty of and convicted for contempt of court, under Article 204 (2) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance (Ordinance 5 of 2003) for wilful flouting, disregard and disobedience of this court’s direction contained in paragraph number 178 of the judgment delivered in the case of Dr Mubashir Hasan versus the Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2010 SC 265) [The NRO case]. After our 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.”

Second order

“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.”

37 seconds

The time it took for the “court to rise” was about 37 seconds.

During the sentence time, Aitzaz requested that he wished to say something – but the bench paid no heed to his request and left the courtroom.

A visibly-composed prime minister went up to Aitzaz, to discuss the consequences of the verdict announced.

At 9:45am, the premier stepped out – a convicted, but free man. He had been spared a stint at Adyala jail.

There were no slogans outside though, possibly because supporters did not understand the implication of the court orders.

Confusing verdict

For quite some time after the verdict was announced, no one seemed to know what had happened. The court had cited Article 63 (1) (g) of the Constitution, which spells out disqualification criterion for members of parliament, leading everyone to wonder if the premier had been disqualified.

The journalists rushed to lawyers and ‘experts’ present at the venue. The judgment was confusing; it was a ‘bad order,’ said Advocate Dr Abdul Basit.

The verdict is clear and the prime minister was disqualified with the announcement of the decision, said Advocate Iftikhar Gilani.

“The best course for the prime minister is to resign,” added Advocate Raja Amir while another said that the ultimate decision lay in the hands of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Former law minister Babar Awan said that, according to Article 63 of the Constitution, the Speaker National Assembly and chairman Senate can decide whether the premier will be disqualified or not.

Govt not confused

Just to clarify matters, Law Minister Farooq Naek on the floor of the National Assembly later in the evening clarified that Gilani was still the premier following the verdict, and that any decision to disqualify him was in the hands of the National Assembly speaker.

(Read: In contempt!)

Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • SK - Salman
    Apr 27, 2012 - 5:30AM

    In countries where democratic set-up is well-entrenched, mere allegation of mis-doings results in resignation. The trial and its’ subsequent outcome comes later. A good example is when Mr. Shahid Malik, a Minister in UK’s Government, submitted his resignation when allegations of misappropriations were made concerning some of his activities and expenses. He submitted his resignation. Later on, after investigations and trial he was exonerated and charges were found baseless. Maintaining public’s confidence in rule of law and sanctity of the government is primal, not self-perpetuation of one’s rule. You do not come out of the Supreme Court acting like you have just won the world cup after being convicted on contempt of court charges. That is what contempt of court actually means: to disregard or pooh-pooh courts’ decisions.

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  • SK - Salman
    Apr 27, 2012 - 5:40AM

    Just wait. All the confusion will be removed when the detailed verdict is issued by the Court. However, the ones who elect to remain confused, will still be confused, even after the details. There is no cure for that yet.

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  • Kashif
    Apr 27, 2012 - 5:43AM

    Only in Pakistan can a man be convicted under a dead law. SC convicted our Prime Minister pursuant to the Contempt of Court Ordnance of 2003 2005, a law that expired and lapsed long ago Under Pakistan law ordnance s are temporary measures that expire in 3 or 6 months unless they are enacted into a statute by the Parliament. Therefore ,In addition to other violations of law by SC in this judgment, this was an illegal verdict by our SC by all accounts.

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  • Imran
    Apr 27, 2012 - 5:45AM

    Not surprised…. SC is just keeping up to its reputation.
    1. Okayed Ayub’s martial law
    2. Okayed Zia’s martial law
    3. Hanged a prime minister
    4. Dismissed Benazir’s government twice
    5. Approved Musharraf’s martial law
    6. Allowed Musharraf to amend constitution
    7. Allowed Musharraf to run for president while serving in army

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  • Saleem
    Apr 27, 2012 - 6:46AM

    At last Supreme Court has convicted Yousuf Raza Gilani. If Mr. Gilani has any shame then he would have resigned long time ago. Unlike any democratic tradition, he chose to continue instead and now his legal team, headed by Aitzaz Ahsan, will do legal wrangling to prolong Mr. Gilani’s stay until election. Shame on Mr. Aitzaz in particular who is trying to save Mr. Gilani and prolonging people miseries.

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  • Nasr
    Apr 27, 2012 - 7:58AM

    I thought a said to media a few months back that if he is convicted he will resign? I guess he plans to do that after the fate of his appeal….

    I am still baffled by the fact that people of the calibre of Gillani can make it to the top management position in our beloved country Pakistan. It’s not surprising that they end up inflicting collective punishment to the people of Pakistan by slowly pushing us to stone ages by their poor management & ethical practices.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Apr 27, 2012 - 8:30AM

    Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has no moral ground to remain Prime Minister of Pakistan after he has been convicted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

    If he and PPP will remain adamant that Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani a convicted person will continue to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan than it is the choice of an individual as well as collective choice of PPP.

    By making such precedent, another convicted person, may be a murderer or a terrorist backed by any political party can nominate some other convicted person for the slot of Prime Minister.

    It is matter of interpretation as how people can make a difference between a convicted or a non-convicted person.

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  • Mirza
    Apr 27, 2012 - 9:22AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:
    Sir when generals with multiple acts of high treason and no support in masses can stay in power always with the help of SC then what is the problem with elected PM being in office? PM should leave the office after all legal avenues are exhausted. Only the same day the PM and PPP has proved their popularity among rural masses when they defeated PML-N in Punjab Assembly elections on a seat that PML-N had never lost. The moment PM loses his majority in the parliament he would have to resign, prior to that it is his party’s decision. PM has proved himself that he is not a traitor and would go down for the party as a foot soldier. BTW, even after the lists of politicians who received money from ISI to defeat PPP, how many voices are raised against them as corrupt or they should resign?
    Regards,
    Mirza

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  • sajid
    Apr 27, 2012 - 9:26AM

    Is it was a Supreme Court decision or MONEY decision.???????………..

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  • JB
    Apr 27, 2012 - 11:30AM

    Another new low in Pakistani politics…this whole soap opera shows the incompetencies and all-out hypocrisies of our political as well as judicial scene. Very disappointed.

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  • kamran
    Apr 27, 2012 - 11:55AM

    SC must deliver justice to a common man.Poor citizen cases are lingering since the last 10-15 years and for them justice is absolutely denied.Who will deliver justice to the poor citizen of Pakistan???

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  • Asifa Khan
    Apr 27, 2012 - 12:39PM

    PM should resign immediately. He has no right to rule the country now.

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  • ARkhan
    Apr 27, 2012 - 2:15PM

    these people do not belong to civilized community

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  • khan
    Apr 27, 2012 - 4:55PM

    @Mirza:
    This is not the question of Gilani,s loyalties to his party or going as a foot soldier for it nor is it his pleasure to do what his party says. this is the question of prestige of this country and nation. since yesterday the islamic republic of pakistan is ruled by a convict. people at this position do not wait for decisions but resign even if they are just accused. our heads should hang in shame, i dont know about the rulers.

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  • Jabbar
    Apr 28, 2012 - 8:17PM

    PM is not eligible for his post. Sharif and PML-N are, despite attacking the SC while in session! The lion was tamed and packed away by a military dictator not once but twice! NS is not even an elected member of NA or Senate to fulfill his exile conditions with Gen Mush and King of SA. Yet he talks like he owns Pakistan. Mian G, did you not lose a safe seat to PPP only yesterday which you never had lost before?

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