Sharif brothers ineligible for elections, Punjab government dissolved (Lead)

February 25th, 2009 - 4:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz SharifIslamabad, Feb 25 (IANS) Pakistan’s Supreme Court Wednesday barred former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from contesting elections and declared null and void the election of his younger brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, leading to the fall of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in the country’s most politically consequential province.

Protests broke out all over Pakistan, particularly in the politically influential province of Punjab, the power base of the PML-N. The decision also led to the Karachi Stock Exchange falling by 300 points.

The Supreme Court ruling came through a brief verbal order issued by a three-judge bench led by Justice Musa Leghari.

The Supreme Court bench was hearing petitions challenging the Lahore High Court’s order disqualifying Sharif, chief of the PML-N, from contesting elections. The apex court upheld the Lahore High Court decision.

With Shahbaz Sharif out of the chief minister’s chair, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer now controls the reins in the province.

The Supreme Court is yet to issue a detailed order.

PML-N spokesperson Siddique-ul-Farooq told reporters: “We do not recognise these courts as genuine and constitutional. These are kangaroo courts and we care little for this verdict… It has no value.”

Another party leader Farooq Rashid said the decision was expected and “bad for the country”.

A major reshuffle in the Punjab bureaucracy is expected soon with officials posted by the Sharif government likely to be removed.

Akram Sheikh, the lead lawyer representing the Sharifs, accused President Asif Ali Zardari of being the architect of the decision.

“Asif Ali Zardari had a hand in the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and today’s decision is also according to his wishes,” he told reporters after the verdict.

The Sharif brothers, who had refused to appear before the court while the case was being heard, are unlikely to seek a review of the decision, sources close to them said.

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