Pakistan court suspends ruling on Sharifs
Islamabad, March 31, 2009
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended a ruling barring former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother from holding elected office and restored their government in the key province of Punjab.
President Asif Ali Zardari plunged Pakistan into a political crisis a month ago by dismissing the government in Punjab after Supreme Court ruled that Sharif brothers could not hold elected office because of old convictions.
The court in its latest decision suspended the late February ruling and allowed Shahbaz Sharif, who was chief minister of Punjab, to resume office.
"The operation of the February 25 order has been suspended," Judge Tassaquq Hussain Jilani told the court.
A one-year-old civilian federal government, led by Zardari's Pakistan's Peoples' Party (PPP), appeared shaky this month as Sharif drove through Punjab at the head of mass protest that raised fears of a violent climax in Islamabad.
The government placed barricades around the capital and put the army on alert as Sharif led the so-called Long March protest rally from the eastern city of Lahore.
Zardari imposed federal rule, known as governor's rule, after dismissing Shahbaz Sharif's government. The Sharif brothers said Zardari was behind the February 25 court ruling.
Fearful of instability in a nuclear-armed nation already under threat from Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, Western governments and the Pakistan army persuaded Zardari to defuse the crisis by submitting to Sharif's demand for the reinstatement of a top judge.
Having reluctantly restored Iftikhar Chaudhry as Supreme Court chief justice, Zardari said on Saturday he would let Sharif's party take power again in Punjab, Pakistan's largest and most politically influential province.
Zardari, widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, lifted governor's rule on Monday and has said his party would support Sharif's government in Punjab but would sit in opposition. - Reuters