The supreme court decision came two days after Lahore's high court ruled that Sharif was ineligible to stand because of previous criminal convictions related to a military coup that removed him from power in 1999.

The government filed an appeal against the high court judgment on Wednesday.

Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, said on Tuesday that the government was trying to help Sharif, a key partner in the ruling coalition.

The government's appeal comes amid differences between the coalition, made up of the PML-N and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), of which Gilani is a member.

The two parties are at odds over the possible impeachment of Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, as well as the coalition's failure to honour a pledge to restore judges sacked by Musharraf in November.

The PML-N itself has refused to challenge the government's appeal.

Sheikh said there was no need for the two-time prime minister to come to the court next week.

"Nawaz Sharif will not appear before the supreme court. I have submitted this before that he has a principled position that he will not appear before these judges," Sheikh said.
 
"The courts are bound to give relief and dispense justice, no matter if someone is able to appear before it or not."