Pakistan's Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling Friday, disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and others from holding public office for lying and dishonesty.
Sharif, 67, resigned from office in July after the top court found him guilty of concealing a foreign source of income.
After Sharif's ouster from office last year, his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party elected Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as his successor to enable the party to complete its mandated five-year term due to end in June before the country holds new elections later this year.
Friday's unanimous verdict by a five-judge panel of the highest court merely addressed an ambiguity over whether disqualifications handed down under relevant constitutional provisions requiring public office holders to be truthful and honest are for life or a specific time period.
But party loyalist and the state minister for information Maryam Aurangzeb swiftly rejected the verdict as a conspiracy against democracy in the country.
This is the same joke that has been played on 17 elected prime ministers of Pakistan," she told reporters outside the court.
The minister stopped short of once again blaming the powerful military for orchestrating the judicial proceedings, saying it is the work of those nameless, faceless and unknown people who determine the fate of elected prime ministers in Pakistan.
The military, which has ruled the country for years through coups against elected governments, denies involvement.
Sharif's party won the 2013 elections and brought him to power for a historic third time, though all of his terms ended abruptly and prematurely.
The former prime minister's dismissal from office in July was based on corruption charges stemming from the 2016 Panama Papers, leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The trove of papers contained names of three of Sharif's six children heading offshore companies that purchased four London luxury flats.
The family has maintained the companies were set up with legally obtained money and an anti-corruption court is investigating it under the direction of the Supreme Court.
Legal experts say Sharif can re-enter national politics only if his party secures a landslide victory in the next elections so it is able to amend the constitution to remove disqualification clauses.
Analysts and political commentators, however, say Friday's decision will further weaken Sharif's political party, which has already witnessed defections of key members in recent weeks, making even simple victory difficult in the upcoming national elections, assertions PML-N leaders dismiss.
A presidential decree removed Sharif from power in early the 1990s on charges of corruption and mismanagement of the national economy.
After his party's landslide victory in the 1997 elections, Sharif returned to office only to be ousted two years later in October 1999 in a bloodless military coup. He was later tried and convicted for treason before being exiled to Saudi Arabia. Sharif returned to Pakistan in late 2007 and resumed political activities.
Source: Voice of America
PAKISTAN'S SUPREME COURT DISQUALIFIES FORMER PM SHARIF FROM HOLDING OFFICE FOR LIFETIME
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan April 13 (NNN-Xinhua) -- The Pakistan Supreme Court on Friday disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for lifetime from holding any public office.
A five-member bench delivered the verdict on the question of the period of the disqualification of a member of the parliament. The court had disqualified Sharif as prime minister over corruption charges last year but it had not mentioned the disqualification period in the verdict that was delivered on July 28, 2017.
The five judges in an unanimous ruling said those who are not "honest" and "truthful" under the country's constitution are "banned from parliament for life."
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of Sharif rejected the verdict and said the former prime minister was "punished for eliminating terrorism and carrying out development projects."
"The verdict is a joke and such decisions have also been announced about 17 prime ministers," State Minister of Information and Broadcasting Maryam Aurangzeb said.
The minister told reporters in Islamabad that the verdict will not affect the PML-N's performance and the party will be victorious in the coming parliamentary elections, which are scheduled in July.
An influential opposition leader Jehangir Tarin, who belongs to Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf or Justice Movement, was also declared disqualified for life under the judgment.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK