Sharif's party blames Musharraf on poll bar

The government said it would file a petitition against the disqualification ruling with the Supreme Court.

Sharif's party blames Musharraf on poll bar
The party of former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif blamed President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday for Sharif's disqualification from a by-election for a National Assembly seat.

Sharif, the prime minister that army chief at the time Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup, had been expected to return to parliament in a by-election this week, but on Monday a high court in the eastern city of Lahore barred him from running.

The disqualification compounds political uncertainty that has helped undermine confidence in Pakistani stocks, but the main index rose more than 7 percent after authorities acted to slow a fall in a market that touched its lowest level in more than 15 months the previous day.

The government said it would file a petitition against the disqualification ruling with the Supreme Court.

A spokesman for Sharif's party. Ahsan Iqbal, said the former prime minister had been disqualified at Musharraf's behest and it underlined the importance of restoring judges he dismissed last year and of getting rid of a president critics regard as unconstitutional.

"It's the same script, written by General Musharraf," Iqbal said. "This will give new impetus to the movement for the restoration of an independent judiciary and the removal of General Musharraf."

Since Sharif returned home from eight years in exile last November, he has been clear in his intention to drive Musharraf from power.

Sharif's party came second in a February general election and is the second-biggest in a fragile coalition led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Sharif pulled his ministers out of the cabinet after just six weeks, as Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, reneged on a commitment to reinstate the judges Musharraf dismissed during a brief phase of emergency rule late last year.

Protest

Sharif's party has maintained support for the government without being part of it but Iqbal said patience could run out.

"Our patience is also being tested ... We cannot continue to give our support to this coalition if it does not move on the promises it made," he said.

Sharif was barred from running in a general election in February because he had been convicted for the 1999 hijacking of then army chief Musharraf's plane, an action that triggered the military coup that overthrew him.

The Election Commission later cleared him to contest a by-election due on Thursday.

Iqbal said the party would campaign on the streets against the disqualification but it would not appeal to court and judges it regarded as compliant towards Musharraf.

However, Law Minister Farooq Naek, a member of Bhutto's party, told parliament the government would file a petition on Wednesday in the Supreme Court against the disqualification decision.

Members of Sharif's party later walked out of the National Assembly in Islamabad and protested outside.

Several hundred Sharif party workers took to the streets of the eastern city of Multan to protest against the decision, burning an effigy of Musharraf.

Sharif has said Musharraf should be impeached or tried for treason, and has even raised the possibility of the president being hanged.

Reuters
Last Mod: 24 Haziran 2008, 18:19
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