Sharif barred from Pakistan Election

This is from NY Times.
It is rather surprising that Musharraf even left Sharif back into Pakistan. Bhutto also had charges against her but those were dropped. No such luck for Sharif. Sharif has been outspoken in his criticism of Musharraf for his treatment of the judiciary. Of course those that remain in the supreme court are all loyal Musharraf supporters. It looks as if Bhutto might not boycott the elections. There could very well be more unrest before this is over.


Sharif Barred From Pakistan Election
By CARLOTTA GALL
Published: December 4, 2007
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 3 — Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been barred from running in January’s parliamentary elections because of a prior conviction, Pakistan’s election commission announced today.

A spokesman for Mr. Sharif, Ahsan Iqbal, said the barring of Mr. Sharif was part of a plan by President Pervez Musharraf and his supporters to rig the elections, and that Mr. Sharif’s lawyers would contest the decision.

Mr. Sharif, a leading opposition figure who was overthrown in a military coup in 1999, was allowed to return from exile last week, and filed nomination papers to represent a district of his home city of Lahore in the parliamentary elections scheduled for Jan. 8. But other candidates in the district challenged his nomination on the grounds that he was convicted in 2000 of hijacking a plane carrying Mr. Musharraf, who was then head of the army, an act that precipitated the bloodless coup.

“His nomination papers are rejected because of his convictions,” said the presiding election official in Lahore, Raja Qamaruzaman, Reuters news agency reported.

Mr. Sharif arrived in Islamabad today to meet with another former prime minister and opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, to discuss a joint stance on the elections.

Mr. Sharif had called for a boycott of the elections in protest at the state of emergency imposed by Mr. Musharraf on Nov. 3, when Mr. Musharraf suspended the Constitution and dismissed the Supreme Court.

Yet a boycott without Ms. Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party would be largely ineffective. Ms. Bhutto has said that a boycott would just hand a victory to Mr. Musharraf and his supporters.

The emergency is still in place, but Mr. Musharraf last week announced that he would lift it on Dec. 16.

Mr. Sharif was ousted from power in 1999 when he ordered that Mr. Musharraf, who was returning from a trip to Sri Lanka, be dismissed and refused permission for his plane to land.

However, the army took control of the airports and allowed the plane to land. Mr. Sharif was arrested, imprisoned and convicted on corruption and hijacking charges and sentenced to life imprisonment.

A year later he was allowed to go into exile to Saudi Arabia but his sentences were never quashed.

Mr. Musharraf, who resigned from his military post as chief of the army and became a civilian president last week, allowed Mr. Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif to return in time to contest the parliamentary elections. But both men have now been disqualified because of the outstanding court cases against them.

Both can appeal the election commission’s decision.

“This proves our point that without an independent judiciary there cannot be free and fair elections,” Ahsan Iqbal, Mr. Sharif’s spokesman, said.

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