Pakistan prime minister disqualified by Supreme Court
When Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani refused to re-open corruption cases against current President Asif Ali Zardari, the Supreme Court held him in contempt.
Gilani ignored the contempt citation and today, he paid for his miscalculation as the court disqualified him from holding office.
"Since no appeal was filed (against the April 26 conviction) ... therefore Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani stands disqualified as a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament)...," said Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in a packed courtroom.
"He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan ... the office of the prime minister stands vacant."
But Fawad Chaudhry, a senior Gilani aide, said only parliament could dismiss the prime minister.
While the decision is a big blow to the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), it is unlikely to lead to the fall of the unpopular government.
The PPP and its coalition partners have the numbers in parliament to elect a new prime minister until the government's term ends early next year.
"I don't see this as a major constitutional breakdown unless the PPP ignores this decision," said legal expert Salman Raja.
"I think sanity will prevail and they should be able to do that fairly easily given that they just passed the budget - they clearly have a majority (in parliament)."
The Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue a notification declaring Gilani ineligible for office. He is the first serving prime minister in Pakistan's history to be convicted by a court.
The political instability is likely to further distract Pakistan's leaders from tackling a dizzying array of problems fueling public anger, from crippling power cuts to rampant corruption to a struggling economy.
This being Pakistan, the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry has some corruption problems of his own. His son apparently took more than $3.5 million in bribes from a real estate mogul and indications are that Chaudhry knew about it.
Compared to President Zardari who owns a chateau in France and whose nickname in Pakistan is "Mr. 10 percent" referring to the percentage in kickbaks he receives, that's chump change as far as corruption in that god forsaken country.