Wednesday’s ruling by Pakistan’s Musharraf-installed Supreme Court to bar former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother Shabaz, the chief minister of Punjab–the country’s most populous and powerful province–from elected office, has widened that nation’s growing political chasm.
The faux alliance between the two main parties of the capitalist grift, President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), forged in the wake of the reemergence of Pakistan’s pro-democracy movement in 2007, has definitively broken down, hurtling the country further along the bumpy road of political crisis.
Sharif, every bit as corrupt and venal as Zardari, for tactical reasons hitched the PML-N’s political wagon to the mass movement launched by lawyers’ groups, democracy activists and the labor movement to restore Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Choudhry to office.
The Sharif family, rich Punjabi industrialists, came to prominence during General Zia ul-Haq’s military dictatorship during the 1980s. Sharif, a right-winger with close ties to the Saudi monarchy, spent a comfortable exile in Riyadh after being deposed by Musharraf. Indeed “democracy champion,” the late Benazir Bhutto, had initially welcomed Musharraf’s 1999 coup.
As socialist critic and historian Tariq Ali points out in The Duel, “neither Bhutto’s daughter, Benazir, nor Zia’s protégé, Nawaz Sharif, showed any ability to govern the country in interests other than their own. Clientilism, patronage, and corruption on a gigantic scale were the hallmarks of their weak regimes.”
Pakistan protest at Sharif ban – 26 Feb 09
A Pakistani court’s decision to continue banning a key opposition figure from politics, and nullify the election of his brother – has drawn angry crowds to the streets. Nawaz Sharif called for demonstrations after Wednesday’s ruling, a move that threatens to reignite long-standing political tensions. Al Jazeera’s Iram Khan reports.
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