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Gilani becomes first Pakistan PM to be indicted by SC

Last updated on: February 13, 2012 11:38 IST

Gilani becomes first Pakistan PM to be indicted by SC

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Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was on Monday indicted by the Pakistan Supreme Court on contempt charges for refusing to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, a move that may force the beleaguered leader to quit.

Gilani, 59, the first Pakistani prime minister to be arraigned for contempt by the apex court, pleaded not guilty in the packed court room.

The court adjourned the hearing till February 27.

At the commencement of the hearing, Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, who headed the seven-judge bench, read out the chargesheet and asked him whether he had gone through the charges against him and understood them.

To this, Gilani responded by saying, "Yes, I have read the chargesheet and have understood them."

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Image: Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani


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The prime minister personally drove his white SUV from his official residence located at a short distance from the court and was assisted by a battery of lawyers.

The apex court last week rejected Gilani's appeal against the summons, issued to him in the contempt case. The premier has said that he will automatically be disqualified as a parliamentarian if he is convicted by the court.

The motorcade stopped on the road outside the court on a gloomy morning as heavy rains poured down. 

On his arrival in the court, Gilani waved to the crowd outside as scores of heavily armed security personnel stood guard.

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Authorities used a helicopter to mount surveillance as part of the special security measures put in place for Gilani's second appearance in court for the contempt case.

Gilani first appeared before the bench hearing the case on January 19 along with his lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, a senior leader of the ruling Pakistan People's Party and one of the country's leading legal minds.

"I am going to argue that the prime minister is not guilty. The court will tell us how it wants to proceed. Today the charges will be framed and after that the accused will be asked for his reaction and whether he accepts the charges," Ahsan told the media as he left his residence earlier on Monday morning.

The apex court has been pressuring the government to reopen cases of alleged money laundering against Zardari in Switzerland since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefited the President and over 8,000 others.

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The PPP has been reluctant to act because top leaders believe any action on the cases in Switzerland could give the Supreme Court an opportunity to interpret the constitutional provision related to presidential immunity.

The court had said that $60 million that were allegedly laundered will come back to Pakistan only if the letter is written to Swiss authorities.

Legal experts have said Gilani could be imprisoned for six months if he is convicted and face possible disqualification. But reports have suggested that the President could pardon him after his possible conviction.

Asked during an interview by Al Jazeera if he would stand down on being convicted, Gilani said, "Certainly, then there is no need to step down. If I am convicted, then I am not even supposed to be a member of parliament."

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He reiterated that the President enjoyed complete immunity inside Pakistan and abroad.

Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah, tipped as a possible replacement for the post of premier, told reporters that a decision will be made on writing a letter to the Swiss authorities by the PPP after the apex court gives its order and in line with the Constitution.

Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, a key ally of the PPP, said Gilani had already faced a prison term in the past.

He said he had suggested that the next premier should be from the PPP if Gilani is convicted.

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Image: Pakistan Supreme Court


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