Sharif barred from by-election

Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, one of the leaders of the country's ruling coalition, has been banned from taking part in a by-election later this week.

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Mr Sharif and his younger brother were not allowed to take part in February's general elections because of criminal convictions dating back to a 1999 coup in which the then-PM was ousted from power.

VIDEO: Sharif supporters angered by decision

Mr Sharif's rival candidates in the by-election had argued that loan defaulters and people convicted of criminal charges could not contest elections. The Lahore High Court accepted their case.

“Nawaz Sharif is not a qualified candidate to contest a by-election,” an order issued by the court said.

His brother's case was referred to the chief election commissioner. The court said Shahbaz Sharif could continue as chief minister until a final decision on the case was made.

But Mr Sharif's supporters are angry at the ban.

“It is a political decision and we reject it. It is a conspiracy against democracy,” Siddiqul Farooq, a spokesman for Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party said.

Judges sacked

The judges who gave the ruling were appointed by President Pervez Musharraf after he sacked dozens of judges under emergency rule.

“They are implementing Musharraf's agenda,” senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal told private Geo television.

“We will not go before the supreme court in appeal, because we do not accept it as a valid court because the judges there have taken oath of allegiance to Musharraf and not the constitution,” Mr Iqbal said.

Mr Musharraf toppled Mr Sharif in the 1999 coup and sent him and his family into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Sharif's party has joined forces with slain former premier Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, which won the most seats in the February polls, which saw Mr Musharraf's allies trounced.

Mr Sharif, a two-time prime minister, has refused to appear before Musharraf-appointed judges. His party wants to reinstate the judges sacked by Mr Musharraf.