Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sharif Barred From Contesting Pakistani By-Election

A Paksitani High Court in Lahore ruled yesterday that Nawaz Sharif was ineligible to contest a by-election scheduled to take place this Thursday. The judges in question were appointed last fall by President Musharraf when he declared martial law. The short lived coalition between the Pakistan People's Party and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N broke down when they could not agree on the reinstatement of judges sacked by Musharraf. The PPP led by Prime Minister Gilani and Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, want to tie their reinstatement to other constitutional reforms.

For his part, Sharif isn't appealing the decision because he considers the judges illegitimate. Prime Minister Gilani, however, announced today that he will appeal to the Elections Commission to delay the by-election so they can appeal to Pakistan's Supreme Court. However, Pakistan's highest court is still full of Musharraf appointees. So there's every reason to believe the court will deny the government's petition while giving the PPP the appearance of trying to help Sharif. After all, if Sharif is allowed to contest the by-election he could once again be eligible to become Prime Minister.

If there is any prolonged discord between the PPP and PML-N the beneficiary of such discord is Pervez Musharraf, especially if the PPP is courting him. But I'm not sure why the PPP would want to do so. Musharraf after all didn't want to enter into any agreement with Bhutto and put her under house arrest. When she was assassinated, Musharraf and his minions said her death was her fault. I'm not suggesting Sharif is an angel but given Musharraf's indifference to Bhutto compared with Sharif's grief I'm not sure why the PPP isn't making a more concerted effort to work with him.

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