Bhutto's return to Pakistani politics stopped in its tracks

Friday 10 January 2014 03:18

Supporters of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said they will go to court in a bid to overturn a decision by election officials rejecting her application to run for parliament in the October election.

"We will challenge this decision," Bhutto's lawyer, Ayaz Soomroo, said after election officials in Bhutto's home city of Larkana rejected her bid for a seat on the National Assembly, the more powerful house in parliament.

Officials in Larkana and the southern port city of Karachi were scheduled to rule Sunday on Bhutto's other bids to run for a second general seat and a reserved women's seat. Pakistani politicians commonly run in several constituencies.

Bhutto issued no statement following the decision. However, a spokesman for the former prime minister said in London that she would postpone her return to Pakistan pending decisions on the other applications.

"All the decisions have been taken by the Musharraf government just to keep Benazir Bhutto out of Pakistani politics," the spokesman, Bashir Riaz, said.

About 300 of Bhutto's supporters marched into the street after the decision yelling, "Prime Minister Benazir" and demanding that President General Pervez Musharraf leave office.

The decision against Bhutto was based on a law newly enacted by Musharraf that bans candidates convicted of a crime in absentia. Bhutto, who lives in self-imposed exile in London and Dubai, was convicted last month of corruption and sentenced to three years in jail.

Musharraf's government said that Bhutto will not be allowed to run regardless of what election officials or courts decide.

However, election officials in Lahore have given approval for another former former premier, Nawaz Sharif, to contest the 10 October polls.

Sharif, ousted by Musharraf in a bloodless military coup in October 1999, made a deal with the new government in December 2000 that neither he nor his family would return to Pakistan for 10 years. In exchange, he was released from prison, where he was doing life for hijacking and terrorism convictions.

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