Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif “are Pakistanis and can return home and participate in national politics”, the country’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
This landmark verdict is bound to galvanise the opposition to the President Pervez Musharraf’s regime as a leader of a major national political party has finally been allowed to return to the country.
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The apex court, in a brief judgment, said that under Article 3 of the constitution “no citizen of the country can be stopped from his or her return to home”. Senior lawyer Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim appeared before the court in the case on behalf of Sharif brothers.
Amidst scenes of jubiliation, Fakhruddin Ebrahim, counsel for the Sharif brothers, told reporters on Thursday evening that the scene has been set for a “free and fair election”. He added: “We now have breathing space and it has to be clarified that the court has ruled in our favour on all the points that we raised.”
Political circles say that chances are that Nawaz Sharif could be returning as early as the end of the week. With regard to the revival of cases by the government against Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Ebrahim, who is a highly respected former judge, said that the cases by the government were “entirely political cases and we are in a much stronger position now to fight them”.
The government had earlier indicated that cases of alleged corruption against the former Prime Minister might be reopened. The cases were closed at the government's request when Sharif and his extended family were sent into exile in December 2000 to Saudi Arabia.
The cases against the former Prime Minister were initiated by the National Accountability Bureau in 2000, after Sharif’s government was overthrown in a coup by Musharraf in October 1999.