Pakistan's top court, election panel deal fresh blows to Sharif's party
Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday dealt a fresh blow to the party of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister it removed last year, by barring former privatisation minister Daniyal Aziz from contesting the July 25 general election.
The ban on Mr Aziz came just a day after an Election Commission tribunal barred the outgoing prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who took over from Mr Sharif, from standing for election in his home constituency, although he is contesting another seat in Islamabad.
Mr Sharif and his party have termed the cases and other several measures as a pre-election attempt to tip the scales in favour of opposition politician Imran Khan.
Speaking to Reuters, Mr Aziz gave a broad hint on Thursday that establishment forces — a shorthand for vested interests led by the country's powerful military — were behind his disqualification.
"Pakistan's history in terms of using state institutions to manage political processes are well known … and the hope and prayer was that we had moved beyond that and the facts are before you," he said.
The Supreme Court had held Mr Aziz in contempt of court for describing its removal of Mr Sharif as politically motivated. Mr Aziz has denied the charges, saying that he was misquoted.
In the case of Mr Abbasi, an Election Commission tribunal ruled that he had failed to declare an accurate value of his assets in his nomination papers.
Mr Abbasi denied the charges and termed the decision illegal, saying he would appeal against the ban.
"It is an election for the parliament. They have made it a joke," he told television news channels.
Mr Abbasi's disqualification applies only to his Murree constituency and not the Islamabad seat that he is also contesting.
Under Pakistan's election rules, candidates can contest several constituencies.
The rulings follow the arrest by an anti-corruption body of Qamarul Islam, another member of Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), after he was named to contest a seat.
Since his removal last July, Mr Sharif has argued that the Pakistani military establishment, aided by top members of the judiciary, had orchestrated the lifetime ban on him returning to politics.
Mr Sharif is separately facing criminal charges in an anti-corruption court that could see him jailed in the coming weeks. The anti-graft body has also approved a fresh inquiry into both Mr Abbasi and Mr Sharif over a liquefied natural gas terminal project.