Posts Tagged ‘ Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani ’

Pakistan Supreme Court Convicts Prime Minister

As Reported by The Los Angeles Times

Pakistan’s Supreme Court convicted Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday of contempt for failing to revive a long-standing graft case against President Asif Ali Zardari, a ruling that could eventually result in the premier’s ouster and ramp up political tension in an important but troubled U.S. ally.

The court opted not to sentence Gilani to a maximum six months in prison. However, under Pakistani law, a conviction could entail disqualification from the office he has held since 2008.

The verdict comes at a time when the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, stewarded by Zardari and Gilani, is especially vulnerable. As elections approach, the party faces a public intensely dissatisfied with its performance on issues such as a stagnant economy and crippling power shortages.

Within hours of the ruling, handed down by a seven-judge panel, opposition leaders called for Gilani’s resignation.

“He should step down without causing further crisis,” former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who leads the Pakistan Peoples Party’s archrival Pakistan Muslim League-N, told a Pakistani television channel. “The prime minister himself invited this situation.”

But members of Gilani’s team suggested the Pakistan Peoples Party would defend his right to stay in office. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira called the ruling “a very unfortunate day for this country and for democracy,” but said the court’s ruling did not explicitly call for Gilani’s disqualification as prime minister.

Ultimately, Zardari and other party leaders will have to weigh the benefits of staving off Gilani’s removal from office through legal and legislative maneuvers against the political damage that could come with trying to keep him at the helm of government.

“Essentially, it will go to the court of public opinion,” said Cyril Almeida, a leading columnist for Dawn, an English-language Pakistani newspaper. “The media and political opposition will say you have a prime minister convicted, so morally he should not stay on as prime minister. … What might happen is someone might petition the Supreme Court, saying, ‘This is your order, so please disqualify the prime minister.’ That seems likely to be the next step.”

The contempt conviction stems from a case in Switzerland in which Zardari and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, were convicted in absentia in 2003. The couple were charged with taking kickbacks from Swiss companies during Bhutto’s rule in the 1990s. They appealed, and the case was dropped in 2008 at the request of the Pakistani government.

Since 2009, the Supreme Court has repeatedly demanded that Gilani’s government write a letter to Swiss authorities asking that the case be revived. Gilani refused, contending that, as president, Zardari has constitutional immunity from prosecution.

Advertisements

At Talks, Pakistan, India Close the Gap

By Anita Joshua for The Hindu

Conscious of the historical baggage, but unwilling to be burdened by it, India and Pakistan on Thursday inched closer to each other during the Foreign Secretary-level talks here and both sides held out the possibility of some tangible outcome after the July 15 ministerial engagement.

However, both Foreign Secretaries refused to be drawn into chalking out a road map or identifying goal posts. “There is a constituency for peace in both countries, and we should avoid stock phrases like road map,” Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said at a “joint press stakeout” here, shortly after spending a greater part of the morning with her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir.

The talks, according to Mr. Bashir, began as an exploratory venture, but “after this round, we are much more optimistic of good prospects at the Foreign Ministers meeting.” He summed up the talks as a “good essay in mutual comprehension,” a phrase he admitted to have borrowed from Ms. Rao.

Optimism apart, both conceded that this would be a protracted process that may not yield quick results, but decided to work on the doables in the interim. As to how they proposed to insulate the process from another freeze in relations in the eventuality of a flashpoint, Ms. Rao said this would also be a subject of discussion.

The first indication of some forward movement came with the announcement of the “joint press stakeout” soon after the talks had wound up, and the Foreign Secretaries were breaking bread in the Foreign Office.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Bashir said the two sides decided to work towards restoring confidence and building trust to make it possible for a comprehensive, sustained and substantial dialogue.

Speaking in a similar vein, Ms. Rao described the talks as forward-looking with both sides trying to understand each other’s position. “We reflected on the modalities for restoring trust and confidence to pave the way for a comprehensive, sustained and meaningful dialogue in all areas. We have agreed that dialogue is the best way forward.”

Asked whether terrorism was discussed, she said both sides agreed that terrorists must be denied the opportunity to derail the process of dialogue while pointing out that Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had made an important commitment when he told his counterpart that efforts would be made to ensure that the Pakistani soil was not used for attacks on India.

Unlike in the past, when the two countries appeared to be speaking at cross purposes, this time the Foreign Secretaries seemed to complement each other.

If Ms. Rao deftly side-stepped a leading question on India’s reluctance to continue with composite dialogue by saying there was no issue over nomenclature, Mr. Bashir returned the favour by echoing this remark and refusing to be drawn into commenting on why Pakistan was not raising the issue of Indian-sponsored terrorism in Balochistan.

Instead, he broad-brushed the issue, stating that terrorism impacted Pakistan and was a concern to the region and the world. “Essentially, we have agreed to move from the rhetoric to the ways and means of addressing these concerns,” he said.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: