04/26/2012, 00.00
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Supreme Court convicts Prime Minister Gilani to symbolic sentence

The Prime Minister found guilty of failing to comply with the provisions of the judiciary, calling for the reopening of the investigation of President Zardari, at the center of a corruption scandal. Gilani given symbolic sentence of a few minutes custody in the courtroom. Now the battle moves from a legal footing in the political arena.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Supreme Court of Pakistan has condemned the Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani for "contempt of court", because he has ordered the reopening of an investigation file against President Asif Ali Zardari over alleged corruption. The head of state is alleged to have used branches of the Swiss Bank to "launder money". However, the courts have only imposed a "symbolic" sentence of "a few minutes' detention inside the courtroom, the prime minister risked up to six months imprisonment and disqualification from public office. The incident has shocked public opinion in the country and laid bare the void between the executive and judiciary, in a precarious balance that threatens to plunge the nation into a civil war. Several times, in fact, the army (the real power behind the judges) has become the protagonist of coups that have upset the political and social status quo in Pakistan.

Thousands of Gilani's supporters this morning accompanied him to the entrance to the court in Islamabad, throwing rose petals and flowers. Huge security measures were installed to prevent accidents, with at least a thousand agents in the area allocated in riot gear and helicopters in the skies of the capital. After the hearing, the judge Nasir-ul-Milk has announced that "reasoning behind the judgment" will be deposited in the coming weeks, and that "the prime minister is guilty" for having "deliberately ignored" the provisions of the Supreme Court.

He is the first prime minister in Pakistan's history to be sentenced by the courts while still in office, but it is symbolic sentence which nevertheless will drag him to the center of fierce controversy and calls for the resignation . Political analysts and columnists explain that now "the dispute will move from the judicial arena to national politics" and will not be easy to predict developments.

The Supreme Court say Gilani ignored Gilani and his government have refused to obey the court's order to write to Swiss authorities asking them to re-open money laundering cases against Zardari. The government argues that. The Prime Minister has instead defended by claiming to have received indications that it was "unconstitutional" to continue the cause. At the same time, the president said that the accusations against him are "political in nature."

At the center of the dispute is the 2007 amnesty for crimes of corruption, which was quashed by the court in 2009 but the government wanted to maintain in force, ignoring the judiciary. President Zardari - according to some analysts the "real problem" at the heart of the crisis - and other prominent politicians there are suspicions of heavy corruption.

During the first hearings of the trial, some experts interviewed by AsiaNews stressed that the court case would determine the "political survival" of the executive and the possibility of carrying out a five year term "for the first time". Otherwise, the sources added, it is likely that the country will be "torn apart by infighting and bloody confrontations," which will see the different branches of government pitted against each other: executive, judiciary and military.


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