Islamabad: The Pakistani Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that Yousuf Raza Gilani stood disqualified as prime minister as well as MP since the apex court’s April 26 verdict holding him in contempt of court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
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 Gilani’s qualification as prime minister, Dawn News reported.
The petitions were filed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) and advocate Azhar Chaudhry challenging the speaker’s ruling that the apex court verdict in the contempt case did not disqualify Gilani from holding the prime minister’s post.
A seven-member bench of the apex court had convicted Gilani April 26 of contempt of court. The court, however, sentenced him only “until the rising of the court”, or till the time the judges left the court chamber. That was only for about 30 seconds after the verdict was handed down.
“Yousuf Raza Gilani has become disqualified from being member of the parliament,” said Chief Justice 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 court asked Zardari to take necessary steps under the constitution to ensure continuation of the democratic process through parliamentary system of government in the country. “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,” Chaudhry said.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Attorney General Irfan Qadir said the prime minister was not answerable to the court over the dispensation of his professional duties.
A resolution had been moved by the government and was adopted by the National Assembly June 14. “We respect the courts. However, state institutions should try to avoid a clash among themselves,” the attorney general said.
The chief justice said the judiciary respected parliament and that there was no clash between the state institutions.
Khilji said the court’s duty was to interpret the law and the constitution, and to stop all measures which violate these.
Attorney General Qadir said if the court issued an order against the speaker’s ruling, parliament would declare it invalid.
Qadir said the verdict of the seven-judge bench in the contempt of court case against Gilani was “unconstitutional”, and he feared that the court may issue “another ruling which could be against the law”.
There was no law in the country which addresses the issue of the contempt of court, the attorney general said.
Khilji said the attorney general should provide evidence for his claim that the country had no law to address the contempt issue.
Qadir said the prime minister being summoned by the court was also against the law, and that the immunity which the office of the president enjoys could only be eliminated by parliament.
The chief justice said Gilani’s conviction could have been suspended if it was challenged. “Only the appellate court can review a judicial ruling, no one can wipe away a judicial ruling,” Chaudhry was quoted as saying by Geo News.
Gilani has refused to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against Zardari, arguing that the president enjoys immunity under the constitution.
Accused of graft, Zardari had been granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf to facilitate his return and, primarily that of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Zardari and Bhutto were suspected of using Swiss accounts to launder about $12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in the 1990s.
The NRO that granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases was struck down by the Supreme Court as void in 2009.
The apex court warned the government of action if its ruling on the NRO was not implemented by Jan 10, 2012. It ordered Gilani to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen cases against Zardari.
In January, the court issued Gilani a contempt notice for not acting against Zardari. Gilani belongs to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) headed by Zardari’ son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Under the constitution, anyone convicted of defaming or ridiculing the judiciary is barred from being an MP.
The matter of disqualification fell first on National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza, also a member of the ruling PPP, who said conviction for contempt was not a charge that meant Gilani 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.
Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin
Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.
The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.
Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.
Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.
Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.
Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told
The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.
The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.
Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.
DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.
The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.
The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.
But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.
It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.
Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus
New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.
Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.
The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.
According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.