Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It may be legal, but it is certainly not "just"

The Supreme Court in Pakistan has upheld the ban on Sharif brothers, which prevents them from holding public office. This implies that the current chief minister of Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif will not be able to continue in his current position as the chief executive in the Punjab Province. Instead, the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer will assume the executive control of Punjab.

The judges have adhered to the law in letter but not in spirit. Sharifs Brothers were accused of preventing the military from staging a coup against the civilian government in 1999. Sharifs failed. General Musharraf took control in 1999. He suspended the constitution and asked the judges of high court and supreme court to take fresh oaths recognizing and legitimizing the military takeover. In a bench comprising of judges, who were willing to work under a military dictator, convicted the two brothers when Musharraf was in power.

The current judgment may be legal, but it is certainly not just. It is upholding the law that prevents convicted individuals from holding public office. However, in late 2007 General Musharraf passed the National Reconciliation Order that washed away previous convictions of Benazir Bhutto and her husband, Asif Zardari (the current president), so that they could hold public office. The deal was struck between Bhutto and Musharraf allowing Benazir Bhutto to become the prime minister, whereas Musharraf would continue as the president of Pakistan. The plans collapsed in December 2007 with the death of Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf resigned as the president a few months later.

It is because of the National Reconciliation Order that some politicians were cherry picked by the military to hold public office, while others were prevented from serving. The current verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan may be upholding the law, but in reality it is upholding the supremacy of armed forces of Pakistan, which undoubtedly undermines the constitution of Pakistan.

Much will change in Pakistan in March. The lawyers are staging a long march followed by a sit in on March 13. This should shake the political landscape in Pakistan.


Feb. 25, 2009


Election ban for Sharif brothers

Pakistan's Supreme Court has upheld bans on former prime minister and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz, from elected office.

Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party holds power in Punjab province. His brother is chief minister but must now step down.

Last June, the high court in the city of Lahore upheld an earlier ruling that barred Nawaz Sharif from running in a parliamentary by-election.

The court said he was ineligible to stand because of a 1999 conviction.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says that the court order will deepen the rift between the Sharifs and the federal government and increase the chances of political instability in the country.

Falling out

One of the Sharif lawyers, Akram Sheikh, confirmed that their appeal in the Supreme Court against the earlier ruling had been dismissed.

He said: "[President] Asif Ali Zardari had a hand in the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and today's decision is also according to his wishes."

Nawaz Sharif is not an MP at the moment, but analysts say the court order will force Shahbaz Sharif to step down from the post of Punjab's chief minister.

Nawaz Sharif had been convicted in connection with the 1999 hijacking of a plane carrying then army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf.

The event led to Gen Musharraf ousting Mr Sharif in a coup and going on to become president.

Nawaz Sharif had returned from exile, hoping his ban from office would be lifted by a democratically elected government.

The PML-N and Pakistan's ruling party PPP then emerged as the two biggest parties after last year's elections, trouncing allies of Pervez Musharraf.

They formed a fragile coalition and managed to force Mr Musharraf out of office.

But soon after, Mr Sharif fell out with the PPP leader, Mr Zardari, and they split over the issue of the reinstatement of judges sacked by Mr Musharraf.

Anticipating Wednesday's court's decision, Mr Sharif at the weekend blamed Mr Zardari for deliberately trying to undercut him.

Our correspondent says this raises fears of a return to the bitter political infighting that characterised elected governments in the 1990s, now though, at a time when Pakistan is facing security and economic crises.

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