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Pakistan: Sharifs supporters protest court ruling
Pakistan Politics M 5486449
Supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif burn a poster of the country's President Pervez Musharraf during a rally against a court ruling that bars the ex-premier from running in this week's parliamentary by-elections, in Multan, Pakistan on Tuesday, June 24, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif burned effigies Tuesday as they protested a court ruling that bars him from running in this week’s parliamentary by-elections.
    Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told Parliament that the government would ask the Supreme Court to block Sharif’s disqualification and postpone the vote in Sharif’s district scheduled for Thursday.
    The court ruling has exacerbated tensions between Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, and its larger partner in the ruling coalition, the Pakistan People’s Party.
    Bickering over the restoration of judges ousted by President Pervez Musharraf last year has undermined their young government, whose cooperation is considered key to the U.S.-led war on terror.
    A successful move by the government to clear Sharif’s path could cool the tensions between the parties.
    Scores of angry Sharif backers demonstrated outside the parliament building in Islamabad, while lawmakers from Sharif’s party walked out of the National Assembly in protest.
    In Sharif’s hometown of Lahore, about 600 protesters burned tires in the city center. Hundreds protested in the central city of Multan, where they burned an effigy of Musharraf and one representing the judges he installed.
    Sharif party spokesman Sadiqul Farooq said Tuesday that the party would not appeal the Lahore High Court’s Monday ruling because it lacks confidence in the judiciary.
    However, Law Minister Farooq Naek — like Gilani a People’s Party member — said the government would step in and petition the Supreme Court later Tuesday or Wednesday to block the decision.
    Information Minister Sherry Rehman said a favorable ruling could also help heal the rift in the coalition.
    ‘‘We want to keep the alliance intact and we are in contact with our allies. We want the public to know the government stance, that we want to strengthen the democracy,’’ she said.
    Sharif, who was deposed by Musharraf in a 1999 coup, is now the most popular politician in Pakistan.
    Winning would have removed an obstacle preventing him from becoming prime minister again.
    He had been barred from running in February elections because of convictions related to the coup, but the election commission ruled him eligible for the by-election after a special panel set up to decide his case deadlocked.
    The Lahore court reversed that decision Monday and again barred his candidacy.
    Sharif’s party has demanded the immediate reinstatement of the judges purged by Musharraf in what was widely considered a maneuver to stop legal challenges to his continued rule.
    Meanwhile, Islamic militants attacked rival tribesmen in Pakistan’s volatile northwest near the Afghan border in a battle that killed 16 people, Pakistani officials said Tuesday.
    The latest unrest, which began Monday night, near the South Waziristan tribal region will likely add to woes of Pakistan’s new government, which has sought to strike peace deals with militants operating in the northwest.
    Also Tuesday, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said, Pakistan would join the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan to investigate an airstrike that killed 11 Pakistani troops and frayed ties in the war on terror.
    The probe was scheduled to start Tuesday, Abbas said.
    Pakistan said the soldiers died when U.S. aircraft bombed their border post in the Mohmand area.
    U.S. officials have said coalition aircraft dropped bombs during a clash with militants. Though they expressed regret over the incident, they said the action was justified.
    Associated Press Writer Khalid Tanveer contributed to this report.

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