Inside Story
Who is Pakistan's supreme court really after?
As the country's prime minister faces contempt of court proceedings, we ask who the real target is in this trial.
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2012 08:25

Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, was in court on Thursday facing contempt of court proceedings.

"It's a test of wills more than anything else. no institution, whether the judiciary, the military or the civilian political leadership wants to cross certain limits and red lines which they have set for themselves. As democracy is in transition it is very interesting to note that whereas they are testing the boundaries, they are not trying to overstep the boundaries."

- Talat Masood, former Pakistani general

Pakistan's supreme court gave the prime minister two weeks to convince judges that he should not be prosecuted for failing to reopen corruption investigations against Asif Ali Zardari, the country's president.

Gilani argued that, constitutionally, the president is protected from any legal proceedings, thus giving him immunity.

The case was adjourned until February 1, but if found guilty Gilani could face dismissal and a possible prison sentence.

On this episode of Inside Story we ask: Who is the real target in this trial? And could this court case bring down the government?

Presenter Dareen Abu Ghaida discussed this with guests: Sohail Mahmood, a professor of political science at the International Islamic University in Pakistan; Talat Masood, a retired general in the Pakistan army and a former secretary in the ministry of defence; and Richard Weitz, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Political and Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute who has also worked at the US department of defence.

Asif Ali Zardari corruption case timeline

  • 2003 - Swiss court finds Zardari and his late wife Benazir Bhutto guilty of money-laundering
  • 2007 - Swiss authorities return around $60m to Zardari
  • 2008 - Swiss authorities drop the case at the request of the Pakistani government as part of an amnesty deal designed to fix the country's political problems
  • 2009 - Pakistan's supreme court annuls the amnesty and orders the government to re-open the case against Zardari
  • 2011 - The government fails to comply, which leads to the current contempt proceedings against Yousuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister


"Washington would not welcome a military coup at this time. President Obama has been trying to boost the civilian components in Pakistan. Under the Bush administration most of the US aid went to the military now they're trying to have it float through the civilian government in order to strengthen civilian authority in the country."

- Richard Weitz, Hudson Institute

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