Pakistan high court suspends decision barring ex-PM Sharif from elected office

The Supreme Court of Pakistan March 31 suspended its February decision barring former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother from holding elected office, pending the high court’s final review of the decision. Last week, the government of President Asif Ali Zardari petitioned the court to review the decision after Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan lawyers’ movement ended a long march and widespread anti-government protests earlier this month. The court’s decision returns Shabaz Sharif to his post as chief minister of Punjab state, but Nawaz must wait until the court’s final decision to determine whether he can obtain a seat in the Pakistani parliament.

Last week, Zardari announced the formation of a parliamentary panel to review key constitutional provisions, coming towards the end of a month of political turmoil in Pakistan which culminated in the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry Mohammed. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani announced early last week that the government would reinstate Chaudhry in response to recent protests by members of the lawyers’ movement and opposition politicians and supporters. Reports first surfaced in mid-March that President Zardari had agreed to reinstate Chaudhry and other judges ousted by Zardari’s predecessor Pervez Musharraf in November 2007 after his declaration of emergency rule. Sharif and the PML-N have actively campaigned for Chaudhry’s reinstatement. Throughout the period of his removal Chaudhry insisted that he was still chief justice under the Pakistani constitution. (Jurist, April 1)

The proposed constitutional revisions would include the elimination of the controversial 17th Amendment and Article 58-2(B), which give the president extraordinary power over Pakistani elected bodies, including the power to dissolve the country’s parliament and remove individual MPs. News of the formation of the committee came in an address to a joint session of the parliament by Zardari, who invoked the memory of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in making the announcement. (Jurist, March 28)

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