Pakistan People's Party Meets to Appoint a New PM

The Pakistan People's Party is meeting on Wednesday to discuss a replacement to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who on Tuesday was disqualified from holding office by the Supreme Court.

In this Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 photo, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, center, is reached by an official, shortly before an interview with the Associated Press at his residence in Lahore, Pakistan. Pakistan's top court ruled Tuesday that Gilani was no longer eligible to hold office due to an earlier contempt conviction, ushering in fresh political turmoil in the nuclear-armed country.

The Pakistan People's Party is meeting on Wednesday to discuss a replacement to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who on Tuesday was disqualified from holding office by the Supreme Court.

President Asif Ali Zardari has cancelled his scheduled visit to Russia as a result of the ruling.

The president may convene parliament on Thursday to elect the new PM if a consensus is reached on Wednesday.

Mr Gilani's constituency has been declared "vacant" by the authorities.

The court disqualified him from holding office two months after convicting him of contempt of court.

In April, it convicted him of failing to pursue corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari. But it gave the PM a token sentence and spared him a jail term.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that many in Pakistan see the court ruling as taking the clash of the institutions in the country a step further.

'Soft coup'

In an editorial, the Dawn newspaper has described the ruling as "extraordinary and unfortunate".

Many in the PPP have been angered by the sacking of the PM

The paper said that the court "has both disrupted an existing democratic set-up and set a worrying precedent for the future".

Meanwhile former Pakistan Bar Council President Asma Jehangir told BBC Urdu that the government had to abide by the Supreme Court if it wanted to prevent a "soft coup".

She said that there was already a "smell in the air" to suggest that "soldiers are lurking behind a civilian face" - a reference to Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

"When the court becomes a dictator, the situation could get worse than under a [military] dictatorship," she said.

Other newspapers have been equally critical of the ruling.

The Daily Express Tribune in its editorial said that the Supreme Court "had played the roles of judiciary, legislature and executive" and that some may see the ruling as a "judicial coup".

The removal of the PM is the culmination of a bitter feud between Pakistan's civilian government and the judiciary.

In April, Mr Gilani was given only a token sentence and spared a jail term.

The court backdated the disqualification to 26 April, raising questions over decisions Mr Gilani has made in office since then - including the budget.