A Pakistani court has barred former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from running for parliament in this week's by-election.
Lahore High Court ruled Monday that Mr. Sharif was not qualified to
run in Thursday's election because of convictions related to his
overthrow in a 1999 military coup.
The decision deals a major blow to the popular politician, as it prevents him from running for prime minister.
Sharif's supporters protested outside the court, while his spokesman,
Saddiqul Farooq, denounced the ruling. The spokesman accused the judges
of being biased in favor of President Pervez Musharraf.
three-judge court also decided today that Mr. Sharif's brother,
Shahbaz, could continue as chief minister of Punjab province until the
election commission could rule on his case. Shahbaz Sharif was elected
to the provincial assembly following his acquittal in a murder case in
Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by the military in a
bloodless coup in 1999 after he allegedly ordered the hijacking of a
commercial plane carrying Mr. Musharraf, who was then the army chief.
Mr. Sharif faced charges related to the aircraft's hijacking and
alleged corruption. He denied the charges.
After spending years
in exile, Mr. Sharif returned to Pakistan last year to head the
Pakistan Muslim League-N party. The party formed a coalition government
with the Pakistan People's Party after defeating President Musharraf's
allies in last February's elections.
The former opposition
parties united over the common desire to strip Mr. Musharraf of his
powers and restore top judges the president dismissed under emergency
rule last year.
The judges were fired after challenging the
legitimacy of Mr. Musharraf's re-election as president while he was
still army chief. Mr. Musharraf later stepped down from the military
and had the judges replaced with more amenable judicial officials.