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Pakistan detains lawmakers in Sharif protest

Pakistani police on Thursday detained around 30 provincial lawmakers during an angry protest against a court decision barring main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif from running for office.

world Updated: Feb 26, 2009 12:06 IST

Pakistani police on Thursday detained around 30 provincial lawmakers during an angry protest against a court decision barring main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif from running for office.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday banned two-time former premier Sharif from contesting elections, and ejected his brother Shahbaz from his post as chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province.

"Police whisked away provincial assembly members who gathered outside the Punjab assembly building," Rana Mashhud, the regional parliament's deputy speaker, told AFP.

"Police bundled the lawmakers into waiting vans and drove them to an unknown place." Female MPs were among those detained, he added.

Police in the eastern city of Lahore confirmed the detentions and said the deputies would be released.

"We have detained around 30 assembly members for creating a law and order situation," police official Mohammad Ashraf said.

MPs from Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the country's second biggest political party, sat outside parliament and chanted slogans against President Asif Ali Zardari, whom Sharif accused of orchestrating the ban.

Security officials locked the gates and laid coils of barbed wire to prevent entry to the building, also barricading roads as around 100 people, mainly deputies, staged the protest, witnesses said.

The MPs and PML-N supporters dismantled some of the barricades.

"We are being denied entry. There is no law or regulation which can stop us from holding the assembly meeting," speaker Rana Iqbal told reporters.

The government has enforced governor's rule in the province.

The order grants full administrative and executive powers to the provincial governor, a member of the main ruling party, who is answerable to Zardari.

It also suspends the provincial parliament.