ISLAMABAD, May 25: The speaker of Pakistan´s national assembly on Thursday quashed efforts to disqualify Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani over a court conviction.
Gilani was found guilty of contempt by the Supreme Court last month over his refusal to ask Swiss authorities to re-open corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Under Pakistan´s constitution, anyone convicted of defaming or ridiculing the judiciary is barred from being an MP. The speaker has to refer any disqualification process to the election commission.
"I am of the view that the charges... are not relatable to the grounds mentioned (in the constitution)," said Fehmida Mirza, who is a member of Zardari and Gilani´s Pakistan People´s Party.
"No question of disqualification of Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani from being a member arises," she added.
The Gilani case has been highly politically charged, with members of the government accusing judges of over-stepping their reach and of trying to bring down the prime minister and president before the administration becomes the first in Pakistan to complete a term in office.
Prime minister Gilani on Thursday called the speaker´s decision a "victory for democracy".
"Today, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, democracy has won and the speaker ruled in my favour," he told a ceremony in Islamabad.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, opposition leader in the lower house from the main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-N, rejected the decision and told reporters that the speaker "has not done justice,".
Gilani was convicted over his refusal to ask Swiss authorities to re-open corruption cases against President Zardari. Photo:AFP
The allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder about $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.
The Swiss shelved the cases in 2008 when Zardari became president.
Gilani insists the president has full immunity, but in 2009 the Supreme Court overturned an amnesty that had frozen investigations into the president and other politicians.