Election ban for Sharif brothers

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by Singh, Feb 25, 2009.

  1. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    Pakistan's Supreme Court has upheld bans on former prime minister and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz, from elected office.

    Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party holds power in Punjab province. His brother is chief minister but must now step down.

    Last June, the high court in the city of Lahore upheld an earlier ruling that barred Nawaz Sharif from running in a parliamentary by-election.

    The court said he was ineligible to stand because of a 1999 conviction.

    The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says that the court order will deepen the rift between the Sharifs and the federal government and increase the chances of political instability in the country.

    Falling out

    One of the Sharif lawyers, Akram Sheikh, confirmed that their appeal in the Supreme Court against the earlier ruling had been dismissed.

    He said: "[President] Asif Ali Zardari had a hand in the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and today's decision is also according to his wishes."

    Asif Ali Zardari
    President Zardari had a hand in the decision, Nawaz Sharif believes

    Nawaz Sharif is not an MP at the moment, but analysts say the court order will force Shahbaz Sharif to step down from the post of Punjab's chief minister.

    Nawaz Sharif had been convicted in connection with the 1999 hijacking of a plane carrying then army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf.

    The event led to Gen Musharraf ousting Mr Sharif in a coup and going on to become president.

    Nawaz Sharif had returned from exile, hoping his ban from office would be lifted by a democratically elected government.

    The PML-N and Pakistan's ruling party PPP then emerged as the two biggest parties after last year's elections, trouncing allies of Pervez Musharraf.

    They formed a fragile coalition and managed to force Mr Musharraf out of office.

    But soon after, Mr Sharif fell out with the PPP leader, Mr Zardari, and they split over the issue of the reinstatement of judges sacked by Mr Musharraf.

    Anticipating Wednesday's court's decision, Mr Sharif at the weekend blamed Mr Zardari for deliberately trying to undercut him.

    Our correspondent says this raises fears of a return to the bitter political infighting that characterised elected governments in the 1990s, now though, at a time when Pakistan is facing security and economic crises.

  3. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    Protests break out across Pakistan, slam Sharifs’ ban

    ISLAMABAD: Police fired tear gas and rounded up protesters in Islamabad Friday, with the nuclear-armed nation in turmoil since a court banned the top opposition leader from contesting elections.

    The cabinet met to discuss the crisis and paramilitaries went on alert as thousands rallied, one day after the country marked the biggest protests yet against President Asif Ali Zardari, who took office last September.

    Protesters are heeding a call from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who leads the second largest party in Pakistan, to rise up after the Supreme Court Wednesday barred him and his brother from holding public office.

    Zardari and Sharif are at loggerheads over the future of Pakistan, a key US ally in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda militancy which has been teetering under financial crisis, extremism and weak government.

    Analysts say Pakistan, reeling from extremist attacks that have killed more than 1,600 people in less than two years, can ill afford a showdown on top of international pressure to bring to justice those behind the Mumbai attacks.

    In Islamabad, police fired tear gas shells to disperse stone throwers and dozens of protesters shouting slogans against the government on a key road leading to the international airport, an AFP photographer said.

    Riot police, armed with batons, charged into the mob, beating demonstrators and rounding up around 25 protesters into vans, the photographer said.

    A senior government official said Friday's weekly cabinet meeting focused on 'the situation arising after the Supreme Court decision.'

    In Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, ousted chief minister Shahbaz Sharif addressed more than 1,000 lawyers and activists while another 500 people rallied outside the regional parliament, an AFP reporter said.

    Waving green party flags and portraits of Nawaz Sharif, around 100 provincial lawmakers also shouted 'Go Zardari Go,' an AFP photographer said.

    Shahbaz, Nawaz Sharif's brother, lost his post in Punjab, the country's political heartland, where the government suspended the provincial parliament.

    The protestors in Lahore also torched tyres.

    Hundreds more protested in Rawalpindi, Quetta and in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

    Twice a former prime minister, 59-year-old Nawaz Sharif has tapped into widespread public discontent with Zardari, crowning his status as a key player in Pakistani politics since a seven-year exile in Saudi Arabia.

    His Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) demands the reinstatement of constitutional court judges sacked when former military ruler Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule in 2007.

    'On the request of the Punjab government we have deployed (put on alert) paramilitary forces to maintain law and order,' interior ministry spokesman Shahidullah Baig told AFP.

    'The situation is under control,' he added.

    Police said complaints had been filed against hundreds of PML-N workers and three local leaders in connection with unrest and property damage on Thursday.

    Sharif's two terms as prime minister in the 1990s were marred by corruption claims and efforts to introduce Islamic sharia law.

    The Supreme Court confirmed a lower court verdict in Lahore last June that he was ineligible to stand in a by-election due to past convictions.

  4. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    Government faces crisis as turmoil mounts

    ISLAMABAD: The PPP-led coalition government seemed facing the worst political crisis of its 11-month life as nationwide protests on Thursday denounced a controversial Supreme Court ruling that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani acknowledged had hurt a nascent democracy.

    Violence at some places marred the protests against Wednesday’s ruling that disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif from holding any elective public office, threatening law and order in the country’s most populous province.

    The virtual judicial coup by a three-judge bench, which meant the dissolution of Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s coalition government in the Punjab led by his Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and led to the imposition of governor’s rule by President Asif Zardari, plunged country into a new political turmoil while the country was already reeling from a global economic crisis and an insurgency by militants in the northwest.

    But most accusing fingers were pointed at the president, who is accused of protecting the so-called ‘PCO judges’ who took oath under a Nov 3, 2007 controversial Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) issued by then president Pervez Musharraf and who dominate the existing apex court.

    President Zardari, who also leads the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) as its co-chairman, was the main target of the protesters who accused him of dictating the court ruling and of foul play by imposing governor’s rule in the Punjab for two months for possible horse-trading in provincial assembly, where the PML-N is the largest party, instead of allowing it to elect a new chief minister immediately. These charges are rejected by the government.

    COALITION DIFFERENCES: While PML-N, joined also by lawyers, appeared on the warpath, there were signs of differences within the ruling coalition and the PPP over the situation, with Prime Minister Gilani voicing open displeasure at the court ruling, which upheld a Lahore High Court ruling in June last year, which disqualified the Sharif brothers on grounds of their controversial convictions under the Musharraf regime.

    Reservations about the ruling have also been voiced by other coalition partners, including the Awami National Party and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, whose leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman has embarked on a mission to seek a reconciliation between the PPP and the PML-N, which had walked out of the coalition in August after the PPP leadership backtracked on a joint to restore about 60 judges of the Supreme Court and the four high courts sacked by General Musharraf under his extra-constitutional Nov 3, 2007 emergency proclamation.

    ‘Their departure has weakened democracy,’ Mr Gilani said about the dissolution of the PML-N’s Punjab government while talking to reporters in Islamabad on Thursday before going to a PPP Central Executive Committee meeting called by Mr Zardari to discuss the most serious political challenge since the present government took office in late March last year.

    The prime minister even did not appear in full agreement with the president over the imposition of the governor’s rule in the Punjab though he said ‘everybody was on board’ on the issue and a government press release said on Wednesday the presidential proclamation was issued on his ‘advice’.

    The prime minister, who won some praise as ‘a good man’ from an otherwise sore Nawaz Sharif, said difference of opinion was essential part of democracy that he often exercised on party platform and added: ‘Tendering advice for governor’s rule imposition is part of the rules of business’.

    He had a damning comment for Attorney-General Sardar Mohammad Latif Khan Khosa’s argument on Wednesday against a prayer to the court to refer the Sharif borthers’ case to a larger bench in view of the alleged bias of the present bench , saying: ‘Certainly he did not consult me.’

    The prime minister, who answered reporters’ questions after attending a briefing at the health ministry, did not rule out the possibility of a PML-N appeasement by way of seeking a review of the Supreme Court ruling or extension of General Musharraf’s controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance to erase the convictions of Sharif brothers as had happened with charges against Mr Zadari, the late Ms Bhutto and many other politicians dating to 1990s.

    But Mr Nawaz Sharif, who spoke to a big public rally at Sheikhupura later in the day, seemed to have little hope from Mr Zardari, who said had ‘deceived the nation and did not honour his commitments’, after accusing him on Wednesday of stabbing him in the back.

    The PML-N leader had no grudge against the PPP itself and called the party’s assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto as ‘my sister’ who he said would not have behaved like her spouse Zardari if she had been alive and in power after the two traditionally rival parties had signed their famous Charter of Democracy in 2006.

    Besides the PPP CEC meeting that ended later at night, the president and the prime minister are likely to continue consultations with their aides on Friday, including a cabinet meeting.


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