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Sharif brothers banned from parliament, Muslim League blames Zardari

Article published on the 2009-02-25 Latest update 2009-02-26 14:49 TU

Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan in 2007(Photo: Reuters)

Nawaz Sharif returns to Pakistan in 2007
(Photo: Reuters)

Pakistan's Supreme Court has disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz from contesting elections. The ruling will prevent Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) chief and former Prime Minister Nawaz from standing for parliament in a by-election and oblige Shahbaz to step down as Chief Minister of the politically crucial Punjab province.

The case was an appeal against a judgement by a court in the eastern city of Lahore last June which banned the brothers from standing for office because of a conviction in a plane hijack conspiracy case.

That ruling came after Shahbaz had been elected to the assembly of the country's most populous and politically influential province, Punjab, and had become its Chief Minister.

Shahbaz will now have to resign from those posts, while Nawaz, who was prevented from standing in the last election because of a corruption conviction, will not be able to stand for the Islamabad parliament in a by-election.

The two brothers refused to appear in court because judges appointed by former President Pervez Musharraf are still sitting. They have backed a lawyers' campaign for the reinstatement of judges sacked by Musharraf during his term of office.

"The judgement has been given at the directive of President Asif Ali Zardari, who was conspiring to get Sharif brothers disqualified," PML-N spokesperson Siddique-ul-Farooque told the AFP news agency.

"It proves there is no difference between Asif Zardari and Pervez Musharraf and at present we have a martial law in the country without uniform."

Shares on the Pakistani stock exchange fell five per cent when the news was announced.

Interview: Islamabad correspondent Rana Jawad

25/02/2009 by Salil Sarkar