Inside Story
Can Pakistan's prime minister cling to power?
As Yusuf Raza Gilani is convicted of contempt, we ask if the issue of corruption is now a weapon in a power struggle.
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2012 12:34

Pakistan's Supreme Court has found Yusuf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, guilty of contempt by refusing to obey a court order.

"I don't understand how any foreign government can deal with Pakistan which is ruled by a corrupt, convicted prime minister ... it will be a real legal issue for them to explain to their taxpayers ...."

- Adil Gilani, the Pakistani adviser for Transparency International

He was charged for failing to re-open a corruption investigation against Asif Ali Zardari, the country's president. But Gilani argues that as head of state the president enjoys immunity from prosecution.

There are allegations that Zardari laundered money through Swiss bank accounts. He and his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, have been accused of accepting about $12m in bribes they allegedly received in the 1990s.

The Swiss authorities dropped their case against Zardari when he became president in 2008. A Swiss prosecutor at the time said it would be impossible to investigate the president because, as head of state, he was immune from prosecution.

The case against Gilani is part of a long-running dispute between Pakistan's civilian government and the judiciary.

Under the leadership of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the head of the Pakistani judiciary, the Supreme Court has been aggressive in challenging the authority of a government it depicts as incompetent and corrupt.

"The cabinet said they would wait for the full judgement and that it was a political case not a criminal case so there's no reason why the prime minister should step down ...."

- Ayaz Amir, a member of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz

Gilani was given a symbolic detention of a few minutes, lasting only as long as it took the judges to leave the hearing. Some analysts say that may end up hurting the court's credibility.

The attention now is on Gilani's future in office, with opposition leaders calling for his immediate resignation.

After being convicted, can Gilani still serve as prime minister? Just how long can he hold on to his job? And is the issue of corruption in Pakistan just another weapon in the struggle for power among the country's leaders?

Joining Inside Story with presenter Hazem Sika to discuss these issues are guests: Adil Gilani, the Pakistani adviser to Transparency International; Ayaz Amir, a member of the national assembly and a member of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz; and Sohail Mahmood, a political science professor and a political analyst.

"This is defiance and again, they have taken it to the streets and politicised the matter ... this is all getting very political. I think they are buying time and trying to distract from an awful record ... on the overall a very, very corrupt government."

Sohail Mahmood, a political analyst


  • In 2007, the deal initiated by Pervez Musharraf, the former president, granted immunity to nearly 8,000 officials including Asif Ali Zardari, the current president. Two years later the deal was annulled and new investigations were opened.
  • In 1999, Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and her husband, were convicted of corruption and sentenced to jail. She went into exile but returned following an amnesty deal.
  • In 1993, Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister and opposition leader, was dismissed for corruption.
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