Islamabad: More political turmoil lies ahead, Pakistani dailies said on Friday as they debated "the gaping chasm between the weight of public expectation and the letter of the law" over Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani`s conviction for contempt of court.
Pakistan`s leading daily Dawn said Thursday was "a sad day for Pakistan in that a serving Prime Minister blatantly defied a court because he could; but there was a ray of hope in the shape of the judges who refused to be provoked and hand down a judgment that would reverberate".
The News International predicted "only more political turmoil ahead because this government has no interest in following the law or obeying court orders".
Gilani on Thursday received a symbolic sentence that lasted barely 30 seconds for refusing to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Dawn said that Thursday was billed as the day of reckoning but it ended as the day of confusion.
"Faced with a choice between going for the `nuclear option` - requiring the ouster of the Prime Minister - and a slap on the wrist - a token punishment which would allow the Prime Minister to continue in office - the Supreme Court appears to have chosen both.”
"If that is an improbable outcome, its roots may lie in the gaping chasm between the weight of public expectation and the letter of the law."
It said "the court has chosen to open the door to the disqualification process but stopped short of dragging the prime minister through the door itself".
"The matter, it appears, has for all intents and purposes been tossed back into the political arena, where someone can move the speaker of the National Assembly to take note of the judgment and to refer the matter to the Election Commission of Pakistan for a decision on whether the Prime Minister ought to be disqualified from Parliament or not," the daily added.
It said the court has acted in a judicious manner, but wondered: "Why drag the country through the months-long circus of a Prime Minister on trial for shielding his boss, the President of Pakistan, from corruption allegations when ultimately all it would do is expose the limits of judicial power?"
The News International said in its editorial that the seven-member bench could have sentenced Gilani with up to six months in jail - a ruling that might have led to his immediate removal as prime minister - "but has stopped short of that for reasons of judicial restraint and to avoid severe shocks to the democratic system".
"The fact of the matter is, the court has ruled what it had to and the PM walked out of the courtroom, half-free, half-chastised, but what we are left with is a Pakistan where there will be ever more and continued political acrimony and uncertainty, which will only cripple an administration that has already shown precious little will to tackle the economic and security challenges facing the country," it said.
"As domestic political crisis escalates, the things that matter - the economy, for instance - will only fall by the wayside," the daily rued.
"...one thing is clear: there is only more political turmoil ahead because this government has no interest in following the law or obeying court orders."
Ending it on a bitter note, the editorial said: "You may have walked out of the court a `free` man, Mr Prime Minister, but you left behind an uglier, much much sadder Pakistan. Congratulations. Or should we hang our heads in shame?"