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Pakistan lifts central rule in key Punjab province

world Updated: Mar 30, 2009 21:48 IST

AFP
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Pakistan on Monday lifted central rule in country's most politically important province, where an eight-hour siege at a local police academy killed eight people, the government said.

A notification issued by the cabinet division of government just after the deadly attacks against police outside Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, said the grounds on which central rule was imposed "have ceased to exist."

"Now, therefore, in pursuance of clause (1) of Article 236 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the President is pleased to revoke the aforesaid Proclamation," it said.

Addressing parliament on Saturday, President Asif Ali Zardari called for an end to governor's rule -- a form of direct rule from central government, which Zardari slapped on Punjab late last month in a move that contributed to the worst political crisis of his tenure.

The unpopular Zardari came under Western pressure to defuse a damaging standoff with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, whose power base is Punjab, and pull the frontline state in the "war on terror" back from the brink of chaos.

The president put Punjab, which controls more than 60 percent of parliament, in the hands of one of his allies on February 25 when a court disqualified Sharif, head of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party.

The governor, a member of Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), replaced Shahbaz Sharif, the hugely popular chief minister, who was kicked out of office when the supreme court handed down the ruling.

His brother, Nawaz Sharif, who was similarly disqualified, urged supporters to march on the capital and join forces with lawyers demanding the government reinstate top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, sparking fears of violence.

Political parties have long battled for control of the huge province, where the PPP had wanted to establish its own government.

Constitutional procedures will now get under way to appoint a new chief minister from within the provincial parliament.

The Punjab assembly has been summoned for Wednesday to elect the leader of the house, or chief minister, following the lifting of governor's rule, an official at the governor's house said.