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Pakistan: Gilani convicted but allowed to go free

Pakistan's longest-serving prime minister finally gets his day in court.

Pakistan surpeme court 2012 2 14Enlarge
Pakistani security personnel stand guard outside the Supreme Court building during a hearing in Islamabad on Jan. 19, 2012. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan's Supreme Court today found Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani guilty of contempt of court but did not jail him, reported the Associated Press. It was a highly-anticipated ruling over a long-running corruption case pitting Gilani loyalists against government critics. 

The decision may help ease a simmering political crisis in Islamabad, where factional in-fighting and power struggles have complicated US efforts to restore relations with Pakistan, reported The Washington Post.

Ties have been strained over issues like continued US drone surveillance, the killing of 24 Pakistani troops last November, and the US-led raid that captured wanted terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, a move that US officials did not inform Pakistan about until after it had been completed. 

All this has led to confusion over the status of US-Pakistani relations, but given that Gilani is Pakistan's longest-serving prime minister, today's ruling is seen as a bid for stability, according to The Washington Post.

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The ruling provides grounds for calls for Gilani's ousting, but with elections set for later this year, the chances of his dismissal -- a move AP said requires the speaker of the parliament and the election commission and could take up to four months -- is unlikely.

The prime minister, who is suspected of laundering bribes vis-a-vis Swiss bank accounts in a highly-politicized case that dates back to 2009, could have been dismissed from office or handed a six-month jail term, reported Australia's ABC News.

But the fact that the powerful politician was left free to go, and reportedly showered with rose petals by supporters as he left the court today, does not mean he was happy with the situation.

The Washington Post quoted the powerful politician as telling local television that he had "hoped for fulfillment of the requirements of justice, fulfillment of the law and the constitution."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/120426/gilani-pakistan-pm-convicted-allowed-him-go-free