Islamabad, May 24 - In a reprieve for Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan Parliament's Speaker today ruled out his disqualification in the wake of his conviction for contempt by the Supreme Court for refusing to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
In a ruling issued this afternoon, Fehmida Mirza, the Speaker of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament, said she had decided not to send any proposal for Gilani's disqualification to the Election Commission as the Premier had not been charged with acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity or independence of the judiciary.
The charges against Gilani were "not relatable" to provisions of Article 63 of the Constitution that relate to a person being convicted for acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity or independence of the judiciary, Mirza said in the five-page ruling.
She added that "therefore, no question of disqualification of... Gilani from being a member arises" under the same Article of the Constitution.
Mirza, who belongs to the ruling Pakistan People's Party, further said Gilani had been convicted only on the charge of contempt for failing to act on the apex court's directions to revive graft cases against Zardari in Switzerland.
The Speaker also expressed her concerns about letters sent to her by the apex court's assistant registrar seeking action on the verdict against Gilani, 69.
The ruling said the contents of the letter sent by the apex court's official were in "bad taste" and went "against parliamentary norms and traditions".
Noting that the Speaker was often required to perform the functions of the President, Mirza said the office of the Speaker "demands the highest respect from other organs of the state".
Mirza cited several precedents and court rulings to support her decision not to refer the matter to the Election Commission.
The Supreme Court had convicted Gilani on April 26 and given him a symbolic sentence of less than a minute for refusing to act on orders to reopen the corruption cases against President Zardari.
The government has maintained that it cannot act against the President as he enjoys immunity in Pakistan and abroad.
The apex court had further said the premier faced the possibility of disqualification due to his conviction.
Legal experts were earlier divided on whether the Speaker could settle the issue of Gilani's disqualification.
Gilani had dismissed calls from the opposition to quit following his conviction, saying the Speaker alone would decide whether he could continue as a member of the National Assembly.
The premier has the right to appeal his conviction within 30 days and his lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan is expected to file the appeal on Saturday.
Over the past few days, Gilani has met the PPP's legal experts and Ahsan to finalise the draft of the appeal.
The Supreme Court has been pressuring the government to revive the corruption cases against the President since December 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that had benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others. PTI