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Gilani's job on the line, faces indictment for contempt

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today faces indictment for contempt in Supreme Court which may cost him his job for his refusal to re-open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

world Updated: Feb 13, 2012 09:34 IST

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday faces indictment for contempt in Supreme Court which may cost him his job for his refusal to re-open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

The Supreme Court on Friday threw out a last-ditch appeal from the embattled Prime Minister.

If convicted, Gilani faces six months in jail and disqualification from office in a case that has fanned political instability and may force elections within months in a country already troubled by al Qaeda and Taliban violence.

The Supreme Court has insisted that Gilani appears for the framing of contempt charges over the government's two-year refusal to ask Swiss authorities to re-open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Zardari and his late wife, prime minister Benazir Bhutto, were suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder about $12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in Pakistan in the 1990s.

The Supreme Court has said it will only drop the summons if Gilani obeys its order to write to the Swiss authorities, asking them to re-open the cases.

Gilani's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan has confirmed that the prime minister would now appear in court on Monday.

Gilani said that if convicted he would lose his seat in the parliament and would automatically be removed as prime minister.

"Certainly then there is no need to step down if I am convicted, I am not supposed to be even the member of the parliament," Gilani told Al Jazeera television in an interview on Saturday.

Interior minister Rehman Malik on Sunday reviewed the security arrangements in Islamabad's "Red Zone" where the Supreme Court, presidency and prime minister's office and residence are located, state media reported.

A statement issued by Supreme Court on Sunday said that journalists, lawyers and others would be allowed to witness proceedings only if issued with special passes.

The Swiss shelved the cases in 2008, when Zardari became head of state, and a prosecutor in Switzerland has said it will be impossible to re-open them as long as he remains head of state and is immune from prosecution.

Gilani insists that Zardari has full immunity.

Members of the government accuse judges of over-stepping their reach and of trying to bring down the prime minister and president, a year before the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete an elected term.

The Pakistani court overturned in December 2009 a two-year political amnesty that had frozen the allegations against Zardari and other politicians.

Gilani himself appeared before the Supreme Court on January 19, citing Zardari's immunity as explanation for his refusal to obey the court's order.

Legal experts say that Gilani can only avoid being charged by lodging a successful appeal, apologising or promising to write to the Swiss.

The president, who is so tainted by corruption allegations that his nickname is "Mr 10%", has already spent 11 years in jail on charges ranging from corruption to murder.

He was never convicted and his supporters say that the charges were politically motivated.

First Published: Feb 13, 2012 08:25 IST