Pakistan's top court on Tuesday disqualified Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in a stunning move likely to throw the country into fresh turmoil two months after the premier was convicted of contempt.
The Supreme Court on April 26 convicted Gilani for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari in a highly politicised case. Under the constitution, anyone convicted of defaming or ridiculing the judiciary is barred from being an MP.
The matter fell first to the speaker of parliament, a member of the main ruling Pakistan People's Party, who on May 24 announced that there was "no question of disqualification".
Gilani subsequently decided not to appeal his conviction in a move interpreted as an effort not to antagonise the court into disqualifying him.
But on Tuesday, the Supreme Court did so anyway.
"Yousuf Raza Gilani is disqualified from membership of parliament from April 26, the date of his conviction. He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan," said chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, reading the order.
"The Election Commission shall issue a notice of disqualification and the president is required to take necessary steps to ensure continuation of democratic process," he added.