Pakistani High Court Finally Overturns Opposition Ban

PML-N Leader Will Be Free to Contest 2013 Elections

by Jason Ditz, May 26, 2009

The Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the nation’s largest opposition party, scored a major when today when the Supreme Court overturned a February decision to ban its leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, from holding public office.

Sharif lauded the ruling, but assured that he does not intend to call for early elections or do anything else that might destabilize the national government. The decision seemed virtually a foregone conclusion since the restoration of Chief Justice Ifthikar Muhammad Chaudhry, whom Sharif has long supported.

The Sharif ban and the movement to get Chaudhry restored both came to a head in mid-March, when a massive protest called “the Long March” led to mass arrests of PML-N and other opposition figures and a march on the capital. Ultimately, at the military’s behest, the government relented, restored Chaudhry, and declared their support for lifting the Sharif ban.

Sharif’s party is more conservative than the ruling Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP), though the two were briefly part of a coalition government and reports continue that since the March discussions on a new coalition have begun. The United States is also reportedly warming to Sharif, whose party is generally less supportive of massive wars along the nation’s Afghan border. Reports suggest that the US is pressing for a coalition to shore up the weakened Palestinian state, with Sharif tapped as the next prime minister.

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