Pakistan court blocks former leader from office

NY Times:

The Supreme Court barred the former prime minister and opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, from elected office Wednesday in a decision that is likely to plunge Pakistan into deeper political turmoil as it grapples with an escalating insurgency.

The court made its ruling on the grounds that Mr. Sharif had been convicted of a crime. But Mr. Sharif’s lawyer immediately denounced the decision, asserting it was a political decision ordered by President Asif Ali Zardari.

The court also disqualified Mr. Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, from continuing in office as the chief minister of the Punjab, the most important province in Pakistan, and the only one not controlled by Mr. Zardari.

Animosity between the former prime minister and Mr. Zardari stems from the collapse of their coalition last year but it has worsened in recent weeks as the Supreme Court decisions on the brothers neared.

Mr. Sharif, who was prime minister twice in the 1990s, has also pledged to join protesting lawyers in a long march from Lahore to Islamabad next month, and to take part in a planned sit-in in the capital. The lawyers’ are campaigning to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who was dismissed nearly two years ago by former President Pervez Musharraf.

Such a move by Mr. Sharif could raise political passions on the street. With Pakistanis suffering economically and security concerns paramount, Mr. Sharif had the potential of causing grief for the unpopular civilian government, political analysts said.

“By raising unnecessary expectations, he may just push the country to another phase of chaos and anarchy,” Zaffar Abbas, a prominent journalist, wrote of the former prime minister in Dawn, an English-language newspaper.

I think this is a good move for Pakistan and the US. Sharif was a crook who also sold out to the Islamic religious bigots. It was during his term of office that the Taliban and al Qaeda operations became more bold and attacks on the US grew.

As for the political turmoil from denying him access to office, it would have been worse if he gained office. Pakistan does not need him and he would be even less likely than the current government to resist the Taliban tyranny.


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