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Central & South Asia
Pakistan lifts Sharif election ban
Court ruling allows opposition leader to contest national polls.
Last Modified: 27 May 2009 05:10 GMT
Sharif's supporters celebrated the court ruling on Tuesday [AFP]

Pakistan has lifted a ban on Nawaz Sharif, the opposition leader, and his brother which had prevented them from running in elections.

The ruling in the Supreme Court on Tuesday enables the former prime minister to contest national polls in 2013.

"Nawaz Sharif can contest elections and Shahbaz Sharif will continue as chief minister of Punjab province," Ashtar Ausaf, the brothers' lawyer, said on Tuesday.

"This is a decision welcomed by the entire nation," Sharif said from the eastern city of Lahore.

"Today, an independent judiciary is giving independent decisions."

'Powerful and popular'

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Pakistan's Supreme Court lifts Nawaz Sharif ban
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Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna, reporting from Islamabad, said: "The fact that Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz, are now allowed back in the political arena could change the face of Pakistani politics.

"You've had a man - who many regard as the most powerful and popular politician in the country - being left out of the political fold because of convictions that he always argued were politically motivated.
 
"Nawaz Sharif can now ... re-enter parliament as a member and, should there be a constitutional amendment that allows him to stand for a third time, the path to the prime ministership would be open."

Supporters outside the court waved placards as they celebrated the decision.

'Kangaroo courts'

Raja Zafrul Haq, the chairman of Sharif's PML-N party, told Al Jazeera: "I think the whole nation is today celebrating ... after nine-and-a-half years of a very dark period, where decisions were taken by kangaroo courts to disbar them [the Sharif brothers] from contesting the elections."

Haq confirmed that Sharif would stand in the next elections, saying he would "bring more sanity, more stability and more confidence in the democratic institutions".

A February 25 court decision disqualified Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz, the chief minister of the Punjab province, from holding office and standing in elections.

The ruling led to mass protests before the government backed down and allowed him to appeal the decision.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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