The Supreme Court convicted Pakistan's prime minister of contempt today but spared him a prison term for refusing to reopen a corruption case against his boss, the president, leaving the premier in power but facing fresh calls to resign. The ruling stated Yousuf Raza Gilani would serve a sentence only "until the rising of the court," or by the time the judges left the chamber. That happened about three minutes after the verdict was handed down.
Today's hearing had been widely anticipated by opponents of Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari, who were hoping the Supreme Court would sentence the PM to prison and order his immediate dismissal from office. That would have triggered a major political crisis, brought criticism on the court, and could have benefited Gilani and Zardari electorally by making them martyrs in the eyes of their supporters. Gilani's conviction in a court of law means there are now grounds to initiate dismissal proceedings, which involves the speaker of the parliament and the election commission. It could take up to four months and be fiercely contested every step of the way. (Read more Yousuf Raza Gilani stories.)