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Massive protests in Pak after SC disqualify Sharif from contesting polls

PML-L workers today went on country-wide protest after the Supreme Court barred its leader and former premier Nawaz Sharif from contesting elections. The apex court also declared the election of Sharif's brother, Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif, null and void, which will force him to step down as chief minister of Pakistan's most populous province.
Hindustan Times | By Kamal Siddiqi, Karachi
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2009 05:53 PM IST

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and former prime minister and elder brother Mian Nawaz Sharif were disqualified from their electoral seats by the Pakistan Supreme Court on Wednesday, days before the two had vowed to be part of a long march to Islamabad to have the former Chief Justice restored.

The Supreme Court announced its short order on Wednesday morning in Islamabad after which Shahbaz Sharif vacated his official residence in Lahore. The Sharifs issued a statement shortly after stating that a new member of the Punjab provincial assembly from their party- the PML-N, would be elected as the Chief Minister.

Legal experts said that the grounds for disqualification are not clear. One of the lawyers at the hearing, Ashtar Ausaf, said that there is a lot of ambiguities in the case which would be cleared after the detailed order of the Supreme Court is made available.

From the government's side, federal minister Khurshid Shah told newsmen that the move to unseat the Sharif "had not originated from the Presidency." He said that no Governor Rule will be imposed in Punjab and the PPP government did not create the conditions that led to this development.

Shah said that while he could not comment on a court decision, it may be pointed out that the PPP government was with the PML-N party in the case. "They had our support," he said, adding that at the time Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was sworn in, the case was being heard in the Suprme Court and that he had been allowed to take office "on an ad-hoc basis."

Shah said "this decision does not surprise me. It is not a new case and has been going on for a year now."

Meanwhile, Sharif's lawyers have said that they will appeal the case on the grounds that the two brothers were not heard. Zafar Iqbal Jhagra, a PML-N leader, said that not only will the party protest the decision but would continue with its plans for a long march "with more anger."

Another PML-N leader, Makhdoom Hashmi told newsmen that the decision was "history repeating itself." He said similar decisions had taken place whenever the establishment was challenged in Pakistan.

Some analysts warned of a serious political fall-out of the decision. Dr Khalid Ranjha, a former law minister, said that the politics of confrontation would escalate and the niceties of the two sides will dissapate. It was reported that security at the Punjab Governor House, who is a PPP nominee, had been beefed up.

The PML-N party has said that it would hold an emergency meeting today to decide future strategy.

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