Pakistan's top court rules against disqualified PM Sharif

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, declaring that anyone disqualified from holding office cannot serve as head of a political party.

The decision will likely force Sharif to step down as president of Pakistan's ruling Muslim League-N party and possibly end his career in politics.

The ruling by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, heading a three-judge penal, was in response to petitions from opposition parties who challenged a constitutional amendment pushed through parliament by Sharif's party last year, after he resigned as premier over corruption charges.

The top court disqualified Sharif from office last July for concealing financial assets.

The court ruling Wednesday requires that Sharif's name be removed as president of Pakistan Muslim League-N party.

Reacting over the court ruling, Talal Chaudhry, a lawmaker from Sharif's party and junior interior minister, said Sharif is a popular leader and will remain instrumental in politics.

"Sharif cannot be pulled out of the people's heart through court decisions," he said.

Maryam Aurangzeb, information minister, said the court ruling was not unexpected. "Such a decision was obvious to come in support of an earlier weak court order which disqualified the most popular prime minister," she said.

Fawad Chaudhry, spokesman for the Tahrik-e-Insaf party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, welcomed the court ruling. "It is an historic ruling which will strengthen democracy in this country."

Constitutional lawyer Farogh Nasim said the ruling could also affect midterm Senate elections next month. He said it effectively annuls all decisions Sharif made as party chief in the interim and those candidates for Senate who were nominated by Sharif cannot take part in the election following the court ruling.

But a former official for the election commission said election authorities can reschedule elections.

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