02/26/2009, 00.00
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Lahore: supporters of ex Prime Minister Sharif stopped by police

by Qaiser Felix
Some lawmakers protest Supreme Court ruling barring Nawaz and Shabaz Sharif from elected office. Former prime minister says decision was an “edict” by President Zardari, who rejects the accusations however. Thousands of demonstrators take to the streets of the country. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan calls for “political reconciliation.”
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Supporters of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif clashed with police in Lahore, near the Punjab Provincial Assembly Building. About 20 opposition lawmakers also took part in the scuffle with police. They were protesting a court ruling that declared Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shabaz ineligible to run for elected office. Demonstrators were herded into police trucks. Thousands of other protesters took to the streets across the country shouting anti-government slogans and burning pictures of President Asif Ali Zardari

Once again Pakistan is plunged into another major political crisis marred by sectarian violence. It comes after the Supreme Court ruled that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shabaz could not run for election.

Shabaz Nawaz is the incumbent Chief Minister of Punjab, a stronghold of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), a party led by the two brothers.

Nawaz Sharif, elected twice prime minister before being ousted by military strongman Pervez Musharraf, called the court’s decision “a conspiracy and retaliation’ by President Zardari for his and his brother’s support for the lawyers’ movement for an independent judiciary and the reinstatement of Chaudhri Iftikhar as chief Justice of Pakistan.

For the two brothers, “this is not a court decision but an edict and the entire nation knows where this edict came from.”

The tone of the criticism adopted by Nawaz Sharif against President Asif Ali Zardari is “most unfortunate, uncalled for and not commensurate with the status of a leader who has twice been the prime minister of the country”, Pakistan People’s Party spokesman Farhatullah Babar said on Wednesday.

“The federal government has nothing to do with the Supreme Court’s decision” against the Sharif brothers and “we commiserate” with them, said Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman. “This is not what we sought according to our national reconciliation policy.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday expressed regret over the Supreme Court’s decision.

“This apparent politicisation of the rule of law has further devalued the respect” for the highest court in the land, HRCP Chairwoman Asma Jahangir said.

The “HRCP warns that the country needs political reconciliation rather than polarisation,” which will instead create a vacuum open to political “adventurism,” she added.

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