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PML-N to boycott PM's dinner for Erdogan

May 21, 2012


Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (C) waves upon his arrival at the Supreme Court building in Islamabad on April 26, 2012. — Photo by AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) said Monday it would boycott a banquet being hosted by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for Turkey's premier, as a protest against Gilani after his conviction for contempt of court.

The snub from opposition leader Nawaz Sharif's PML-N is likely to embarrass Prime Minister Gilani in front of his visiting Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is widely admired in Pakistan.

On April 26, Gilani became Pakistan's first sitting prime minister to be convicted in court, for refusing to ask the Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Gilani had refused on the grounds that the head of state enjoys immunity.

The PML-N has demanded that Gilani resign, saying the conviction disqualifies him from office and has called for early elections.

“No one (from the party) is going to the dinner, because we do not recognise him as prime minister,” PML-N media coordinator Asim Niazi told AFP.

Erdogan flew into Islamabad on Sunday for a three-day official visit. He is due to address a joint session of parliament before the banquet later Monday.

Senior PML-N leaders said, however, that the party would set domestic politics aside to attend the parliamentary session, because “Erdogan is our honoured guest”.

The allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, were suspected of using Swiss 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 and a prosecutor in Switzerland has said it will be impossible to re-open them as long as he remains head of state. Gilani has vowed to appeal his conviction.