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Pakistan’s top court scraps lifetime election bans

Pakistan's self-exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses a massive homecoming rally in Lahore, Pakistan, on Oct. 21, 2023.

Pakistan's self-exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses a massive homecoming rally in Lahore, Pakistan, on Oct. 21, 2023.

REUTERS

It’s a good day to be former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. A court ruling just paved the way for him to run in next month’s general elections, by scrapping lifetime bans on politicians with prior convictions from running for office. The court has capped the ban at five years.


This is great news for Sharif, who resigned in 2017 after being found guilty of corruption and was blackballed. Sharif has been working to breathe new life into his political career after returning to Pakistan from self-imposed exile in late 2023.

Importantly for Sharif, the ruling does nothing for his archrival, former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who since last August has been serving a three-year sentence for graft.

Sharif’s party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, is considered a front-runner in the Feb. 8 elections, and he could potentially be elected PM for a fourth time. Meanwhile, Khan and his allies have accused the government of creating an unlevel playing field as the jailed ex-PM’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, faces a military crackdown.

Polling suggests Khan remains the most popular politician in Pakistan, but legal troubles and the crackdown have effectively left him sidelined with the elections just weeks away.

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