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Supreme solace for the Sharifs of Pakistan

The brothers Sharif are free to contest elections. Pakistan’s Supreme Court said this after it set aside their disqualification from public office in a ruling on Tuesday, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: May 26, 2009 23:51 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

The brothers Sharif are free to contest elections.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court said this after it set aside their disqualification from public office in a ruling on Tuesday.

Earlier in March, it allowed former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz to take back his position as chief minister of Punjab province.

After hearing petitions by the Sharifs challenging their disqualification, the Supreme Court declared both candidates as qualified to contest elections.

This has significant political implications for Pakistan as Nawaz Sharif is being tipped as a possible consensus candidate for prime minister in a national government that some pundits say is in the offing in the coming months.

Earlier, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had disqualified Nawaz, convicted in a plane hijacking case, from contesting elections, while a petition was filed in the Election Tribunal against the acceptance of Shahbaz’s nomination papers.

The chief election commissioner had allowed Shahbaz to contest the election, but the LHC, on a petition against the tribunal’s decision, declared him disqualified.

After being elected from a provincial assembly seat, Shahbaz became Punjab chief minister.

Following the refusal by the brothers to appear before a three-member Surpeme Court bench, the court on February 25 unilaterally upheld the LHC verdict of both brothers’ disqualification.

After the court decision, Shabaz stepped down as Punjab chief minister, and Governor’s rule was imposed in the province, leading to a major political crisis there.

On March 16, after the restoration of Pakistan’s deposed judges, the brothers filed review petitions in the Supreme Court, which in its initial hearing on March 31, issued a stay against the earlier three-member bench’s decision, and directed Shahbaz to continue as Punjab chief minister.