Islamabad: The Supreme Court`s decision to
indict Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for contempt could exacerbate the standoff between the government and the judiciary and it is in the interest of both sides to settle
the matter speedily, the Pakistani media said Tuesday.
Gilani was formally charged with contempt of court
yesterday for disobeying the apex court`s orders to reopen
graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland
and his trial is set to begin on February 28.
The premier pleaded not guilty and said he would
contest the charges but opposition parties have called on him
The first-ever indictment of a serving premier for
contempt dominated Pakistani dailies today.
"SC orders Pak PM`s trial", read the banner headline
on the front page of The News while the Daily Times headlined
its report "The countdown begins".
The news reports gave a blow-by-blow account of Gilani`s
second appearance in the apex court.
In its editorial "PM charged", the influential Dawn
newspaper said: "A sitting prime minister has been charged
with contempt of court, effectively pitting the people`s court
against the judiciary."
Though both sides have been trying to avoid the
perception that it is targeting the other, "this relative
civility could not have averted the impasse they have reached
by sticking to their guns", it said.
The apex court has been pressuring the Pakistan
People`s Party-led government to reopen the cases against
Zardari since December 2009, when it struck down a graft
amnesty issued by former dictator Pervez Musharraf.
The government has refused to act, saying the
President enjoys complete immunity in Pakistan and abroad.
The Dawn further said: "If either party backs down
after such dogged resistance it will risk the perception that
it pointlessly dragged the country through another political
drama. But given the upheaval that could result from the
PM`s conviction, that risk is worth it."
The court "could consider a lengthy adjournment" and the
government could still ask Swiss authorities to reopen
the case and "put the issue to bed, at least for the time
Either option could lead to "early or on-schedule
general elections" with the chief executive intact.
The conviction of a sitting PM would "weaken democratic
institutions in a country where these finally have the chance
to demonstrate staying power", the Dawn cautioned.