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Pakistan court reverses ban on former FM ahead of elections

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Pakistan’s Supreme Court Friday reversed a lifetime ban on ousted foreign minister Khawaja Asif, allowing the politician to contest elections this summer in an unexpected boost for the country’s ruling party before the polls.

Asif had been removed from office in April for violating the country’s elections law as he failed to declare several work permits in the United Arab Emirates.

The apex court’s decision follows a string of court rulings that have gone against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N) since the ousting of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif last July.

“I am thankful to the courts,” Asif tweeted in the ruling’s wake.

Asif — a close Sharif aide — is widely seen as a PML-N stalwart and an outspoken critic of military interference in Pakistan’s politics.

The ruling came hours after power was handed over to a caretaker administration ahead of polls set for late July 25, marking the second time a civilian government has completed its term in the restive country.

Pakistan has been under direct military rule for almost half of its 70-year history, with at least 15 heads of states deposed before completing their tenure, often at the behest of the powerful security establishment.

Tensions are already mounting in the run-up to the summer’s contest, with rumours surfacing that polls may be delayed by months.

The general elections are expected to pit the PML-N against its arch-rival, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, led by former cricket star turned populist rabble-rouser Imran Khan.

PTI is promising to end endemic corruption, while investing in education and healthcare as Khan inches closer to his years-long dream of leading the country as premier.

But the PML-N has won a number of by-elections in recent months, showing it will likely remain a powerful force at the polls.


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