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Iran Press TV

Pakistan's top court rules ousted premier Sharif cannot lead his party

Iran Press TV

Wed Feb 21, 2018 05:49PM

Pakistan's Supreme Court has ruled a disqualified politician cannot lead a political party, ordering the removal of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif as head of the country's ruling party.

In the court order, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to remove Sharif as head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) from all relevant records.

"The Election Commission is directed to remove name of Nawaz Sharif as president of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) from all official records," the chief justice said.

The order overturns a change in the law by Sharif's PML-N that allowed the former premier to lead the party despite being legally banned from holding public office.

The ruling comes months after the ruling PML-N party passed a law allowing Sharif to remain at the helm despite being removed from the premiership over graft allegations and for concealing financial assets last July.

The decision will likely force Sharif to step down as president of the PML-N and possibly end his career in politics.

The latest ruling could also throw into disarray upcoming midterm Senate elections due on March 3, with opposition figures saying it invalidates candidates from the ruling PML-N who were nominated by Sharif.

Constitutional lawyer Farogh Nasim said the ruling could also affect the Senate elections next month.

Faisal Chaudhry, a lawyer for one of the 17 petitioners who sought Sharif's removal as party head, said the court decision includes Sharif-nominated candidates for the Senate election.

"As a result, all steps taken, all orders passed by Nawaz Sharif are also declared to be as if they had never been taken," the lawyer said, adding, "My understanding is that the candidates can still contest but as independent and not as Nawaz Sharif's party ticket holders."

The news also comes months ahead of expected general elections, pitting the PML-N against the ascendant Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

Fawad Chaudhry, spokesman for the PTI, welcomed the court ruling. "It is an historic ruling which will strengthen democracy in this country."

Sharif and his supporters have repeatedly denied allegations of corruption, suggesting the three-time premier is the victim of a conspiracy driven by Pakistan's powerful military establishment. In recent weeks, Sharif and his party have waged a war of words against the judiciary and military.

Reacting over the court ruling, Talal Chaudhry, a lawmaker from Sharif's party and junior interior minister, said Sharif is a popular leader and will remain instrumental in politics.
"Sharif cannot be pulled out of the people's heart through court decisions," he said.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb said the court ruling was not unexpected. "Such a decision was obvious to come in support of an earlier weak court order which disqualified the most popular prime minister," she said.
Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan's 70-year history to be ousted before completing a full term.

Sharif has served as prime minister twice before and each time was removed from office -- in 1999 by a military coup and 1993 by presidential order.



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