Pakistan Moves to Elect New PM

Posted June 20th, 2012 at 12:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has summoned lawmakers to meet later this week for discussions on electing a new prime minister, following the dismissal of Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The president's office announced Wednesday that Mr. Zardari had summoned the lower house of parliament to meet Friday. The announcement comes a day after the Supreme Court declared Mr. Gilani ineligible for office because of a prior conviction.

The court found Mr. Gilani guilty of contempt on April 26 after he refused its orders to ask Swiss authorities to reopen a corruption case against President Zardari.

In his ruling, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said that because Mr. Gilani had not appealed the conviction, he is disqualified as a member of parliament and no longer prime minister. Mr. Gilani's lawyer says his client will not fight the dismissal.

The court's ruling prompted President Zardari to hold emergency closed-door meetings overnight with members of his ruling Pakistan People's Party and coalition partners.

They are now in talks to find a replacement for Mr. Gilani. Parliamentary elections in Pakistan are due next year but observers say the court decision has raised the prospect for early polls.

The chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Zohra Yousaf tells VOA that the country's democracy is weakened whenever an elected government is not allowed to complete its full term. She noted the instances in Pakistan's history when the military staged a coup after disagreeing with the civilian government. She said that this time, it is Pakistan's judiciary that has acted.

Tuesday's ruling also comes as the political upheaval is hitting a government already struggling with Islamic militancy, a weak economy and violent protests against crippling power blackouts.

Islamabad also is at odds with Washington over whether to reopen its territory to NATO supply convoys for coalition troops in Afghanistan. Pakistan closed the routes after a U.S. airstrikes mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border last November.