Pakistan Moves to Elect New PM

Posted June 20th, 2012 at 5:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has summoned lawmakers to meet Friday for discussions on electing a new prime minister to replace Yousuf Raza Gilani who was ousted by the Supreme Court.

The president's office made the announcement Wednesday, 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 order to ask Swiss authorities to investigate claims of corruption 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.

Pakistan's leading opposition PTI party described the court's decision as “a victory for justice” and called for new elections. But political analyst Rasul Baksh Rais said that although the ruling was a bold stand by the judiciary in a country where politicians are rarely held accountable, the confrontation comes at a cost.

“Pakistan is in a constitutional limbo today and in a state of uncertainty and we don't know in which way Pakistan is going to move.”

Others caution that the crisis will not end with the appointment of a new prime minister if Mr. Zardari is not forced to answer to corruption allegations.

President Zardari is expected to put forward a new candidate for parliament's approval Friday. Because his ruling Pakistan People's Party and its coalition partners have a majority in parliament, his choice is likely to be elected.

The political vacuum comes as the Pakistani government is being battered by accusations of corruption, violent protests against crippling power blackouts, militant attacks, and deteriorating relations with the United States.

The opposition PTI party said its leader Imran Khan and his followers will now take to the streets to force the government to meet their demand.

The chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Zohra Yousaf told VOA Wednesday 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.