Pakistan's Supreme Court has disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office or contesting elections for a lifetime in a landmark verdict that could change the course of the country's political history.
A five-member bench delivered the verdict on the question of the period of the disqualification of an MP, Xinhua news agency reported.
The court had disqualified Sharif as Prime Minister over corruption charges in July last year but it had not mentioned the disqualification period in the verdict.
The five judges, in a unanimous ruling, said those who were not “honest” and “truthful” under the country’s constitution were “banned from parliament for life”.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of Sharif rejected the verdict and said the former Prime Minister was “punished for eliminating terrorism and carrying out development projects”.
“The verdict is a joke and such decisions have also been announced about 17 Prime Ministers,” State Minister of Information and Broadcasting Maryam Aurangzeb said.
The Minister told reporters in Islamabad that the verdict would not affect the PML-N’s performance and the party would be victorious in the coming parliamentary elections, scheduled in July.
“This is the same (kind of) decision that led to the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and (then) to the disqualification of an elected Prime Minister (Nawaz),” she added.
An influential opposition leader, Jehangir Tareen, who belongs to the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, was also declared disqualified for life under the judgement.
The ruling said the disqualification of any MP or a public servant under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution would be permanent. Such a person cannot contest elections or become a member of Parliament.
Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court last year for concealing in his nomination papers the receivable income from his son’s company in the UAE. Sharif has denied any wrongdoing.
Likewise, Tareen was disqualified in December for failing to declare an offshore company and a foreign property in his election nomination papers.
Tareen took to Twitter to say that the disqualification was “not applicable” in his case.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) hailed the ruling against Sharif.
PPP leader Khursheed Shah said his party had repeatedly told Sharif to let Parliament decide the fate of politicians, “but he did not listen and went to the Supreme Court”.
Female activists from PML-N protested outside the top court following the decision. (IANS)