Pakistan in turmoil after Sharif brother is kicked out

Protesters take to streets as government of country's largest province disqualified

Pakistan has again been plunged into political turmoil after the Supreme Court brought down the government of the country's largest province, headed by the brother of President Asif Ali Zardari's main rival. The court ruled the election last year of Nawaz Sharif's younger brother, Shahbaz, as chief minister of Punjab, was invalid. It also kept in place a ban that prevents twice-former prime minister Mr Sharif standing for office.

As two months of central government rule was imposed on Punjab, supporters of the Sharif brothers took to the streets of Lahore and other Punjab towns, burning tyres and chanting, and 5 per cent was wiped from the country's stock exchange. In Islamabad, young men fanned out on to one of the capital's main thoroughfares, blocking traffic for hours. Waving flags, they chanted anti-Zardari slogans, and panicked shopkeepers closed their businesses. More demonstrations are planned today.

The showdown between Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif had been brewing since last summer when the Pakistan Muslim League-N leader broke from the government after a dispute over the restoration of ousted judges. Increasingly critical of Mr Zardari and his Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Mr Sharif had been positioning himself as an alternative should the PPP government fall and had added his support to a forthcoming march of lawyers in protest at the failure to reinstate a sacked chief justice. The Sharifs' supporters said yesterday's decision, just a week before elections for the upper chamber of parliament and the Senate, was purely political and bore the hallmark of Mr Zardari's interference. "Asif Ali Zardari had a hand in the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif, and today's decision is also according to his wishes," said Akram Sheikh, a lawyer for Mr Sharif, after the verdict.

Later, at a press conference at his home on the outskirts of Lahore, Mr Sharif launched a full-frontal attack on Mr Zardari, saying: "I want to tell the nation that it should stand up to this lawlessness, to this judgment, to this unconstitutional judgment, to this villainous act by the President of this country, Zardari."

Reviving the poisonous rivalry between the two parties that dogged Pakistan during the 1990s, he referred to allegations of the President's corruption while his wife, the late Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister. "Where are those millions of dollars?" he asked angrily. "The Pakistani people's money has not been returned."

With Pakistan confronted by a slew of pressing problems including the threat from Islamic militants, its diplomatic standoff with India in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks and an economy held afloat only by the intervention of the International Monetary Fund, many have wondered why Mr Zardari might have decided to confront the Sharifs.

The Sharifs will now throw their support behind the so-called Long March on 12 March, when thousands of lawyers are to demonstrate for the restoration of the ousted former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
UK Border Control
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Senior / Assistant Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Exciting new position available at an independ...

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Credit Controller

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful candidate will h...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn