Triggering a fresh round of political instability in Pakistan, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of the Punjab province, have been barred from contesting elections and holding office.
Within hours of the Supreme Court ruling upholding the ban on the Sharif brothers on Wednesday, Governor’s rule was imposed on the Punjab province as protests rocked Pakistan’s political capital — Lahore.
As people hit the streets in Lahore, Nawaz Sharif accused President Asif Ali Zardari of being behind the move to disqualify him from contesting elections and asked people to come out on the streets to protest the move.
Late on Wednesday night, legislators of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League held a “protest session” inside the Punjab Assembly, indicating that the Zardari government would have to deal with a full-blown crisis.
Addressing a press conference, Sharif held Zardari, and not the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, responsible for the decision. Already, there are murmurs from within the PPP that the decision to impose Governor’s rule was unconstitutional.
It may be recalled that Sharif’s party and the PPP had come to a post-poll alliance after the February 2008 elections in the country.
The PML-N chief said that the bone of contention between his party and President Zardari was the NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) under which criminal cases against Zardari and other politicians were dropped by the Musharraf administration.
“In return they wanted us to indemnify the actions of General Musharraf, which we did not,” said Sharif.
The former PM said the reason why the Chief Justice and other deposed judges were not being reinstated was because these judges would question the validity of the NRO.
Both Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother, Shahbaz, claimed that they were offered business deals to accommodate judges and other issues by President Zardari.
Shahbaz later told journalists in Lahore that he was confident of having their candidate re-elected as they had the required numbers in the Punjab assembly.
Legal experts said that the grounds for disqualification are not clear. One of the lawyers at the hearing, Ashtar Ausaf, said that there is a lot of ambiguities in the case which would be cleared after the detailed order of the Supreme Court is made available.