In a major setback to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's political ambition, a Pakistani court today barred him from contesting parliamentary by-elections scheduled for June 26.
A full bench of the Lahore High Court, which was hearing two petitions filed against the candidature of Sharif and his brother Shahbaz, barred the PML-N chief from contesting by-elections on pleas from his rivals that he was convicted on terrorism and graft charges after the 1999 bloodless coup by then army chief Pervez Musharraf.
Sharif, whose PML-N is an ally of the ruling coalition, had filed nomination papers to a National Assembly seat in Lahore after the Chief Election Commissioner had allowed him and his brother Shahbaz Sharif to contest the election.
Shahbaz was subsequently declared elected from a provincial assembly constituency after candidates opposing him withdrew from the race and became the Chief Minister of Punjab province.
The same three-judge bench conditionally allowed Shahbaz to continue as Chief Minister of Punjab till an election tribunal reviewed his candidature.
Sharif and his brother were earlier barred from contesting the February 18 general election by the Election Commission.
The PML-N condemned the court's verdict, describing it as "politically motivated" and part of a conspiracy to keep Sharif out of parliament.
The judgement was issued in controversial circumstances as the lawyers' wing of the PML-N had today submitted four applications which said it had "no confidence" in the bench.
PML-N Lawyers' Forum president Khwaja Mehmood Ahmed said the bench had, however, announced its verdict before hearing the applications.