Pakistani court stays ban on Sharif, restores regional government

Pakistani court stays ban on Sharif, restores regional government Islamabad - Pakistan's Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended its ban on opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from holding public office.

The reprieve came a day after President Asif Ali Zardari ended federal rule in the eastern province of Punjab, which was ruled by the Nawaz faction of the Pakistan Muslim League party, with Shahbaz as chief minister.

Shahbaz had to leave his office following the ban.

"Shahbaz Sharif's government has been restored with immediate effect," said Zafar Ali Shah, a party official.

The top court on February 25 had upheld a lower court verdict that barred the Sharifs from elections and public offices.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that "the operation of [its] judgement shall be suspended" until the final disposal of a review of the ban.

Television footage showed supporters of the Sharif brothers dancing and distributing sweets outside the court building and in other parts of the country.

Earlier, the disqualifications had sparked protests and made the brothers throw their weight behind the lawyers struggling for the reinstatement of sacked top judge Iftikhar Chaudhry, whom the legal community regarded necessary for an independent judiciary.

As a so-called Long March by several thousands of opposition activists and attorneys moved towards the capital Islamabad for a mass sit-in on March 16, the government announced the reinstatement of fired judges to ward off a potentially explosive showdown. Chaudhry resumed his office on March 22.

"With Allah Almighty's blessings, today those who were denied their rights have got their rights back because of an independent judiciary," Shah told reporters in Islamabad. (dpa)