April 26, 2012 - 15:38 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday, April 26 found Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani guilty of contempt of court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against the president, but gave him only a symbolic sentence of a few minutes' detention in the courtroom, Reuters reported.
It was unclear if the token sentence would ease political tension in Pakistan, where the president and prime minister have jousted with the military and judiciary over the past year.
However, opposition leader Nawaz Sharif immediately demanded Gilani's resignation and some lawyers said the ruling automatically disqualified him from holding the post of prime minister.
Gilani's lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, said the prime minister would appeal against the ruling, which means uncertainty over his fate could drag on for months.
Gilani is the first serving prime minister in Pakistan's history to be convicted by a court, but his sentence - detention lasting just a few minutes until the session was adjourned - was symbolic. He could have faced up to six months in jail and the loss of office. The case stems from what many observers say is a political battle between the government and the military, which has held the whip hand in Pakistan's political arena for most of the country's 64 years of independence. Many say the army is using the court to keep the government on the back foot.
Thousands of corruption cases were thrown out in 2007 by an amnesty law passed under former military president Pervez Musharraf, which paved the way for a return to civilian rule. Two years later, the Supreme Court ruled that agreement illegal and ordered cases involving Swiss banks against President Asif Ali Zardari re-opened.
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 Zardari has immunity as the head of state.