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Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 12:41 UK

Sharif's brother back in office

Nawaz Sharif, left, and Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore, Feb 2008
The Sharif brothers were barred from holding office last month

Pakistan's Supreme Court has restored Nawaz Sharif's brother, Shahbaz, as chief minister of the powerful Punjab province, easing a political row.

The move is part of a court review of a ruling last month that banned the brothers from holding elected office because of old convictions.

The suspension of the ban means Shahbaz Sharif can resume office immediately while the court review continues.

It is the latest in a series of political victories for the Sharifs.

On Monday, President Asif Ali Zardari lifted central rule in Punjab, the heartland of support for the Sharifs' PML-N party, after placing it in the control of one of his allies following the ban last month.

Ten days ago, Mr Zardari also reinstated the sacked chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, to stave off a nationwide protest led by Nawaz Sharif - a former prime minister and now the main opposition leader.

The Sharifs said the court ban on their holding office was unconstitutional, as it was not under the direction of Mr Chaudhry, who had been removed from office by former President Pervez Musharraf.

Temporary measure

The court ruling is a temporary stay of the order of disqualification against Shahbaz Sharif, says our correspondent Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad.

It does not end court reviews of the eligibility of the Sharif brothers, who were both disqualified from holding elected office or running for election on 25 February.

That ruling prompted President Zardari to replace Mr Sharif's administration in Punjab, angering his supporters and sparking mass nationwide protests that threatened the stability of the country and alarmed Western powers.

Following pressure to defuse the crisis, the government of the deeply unpopular Mr Zardari appealed against the ban.

The Sharifs have accused Mr Zardari of being behind the original court ban, a charge he denies.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
The Hindu It's Gilani vs Zardari in Pakistan - 55 mins ago
Financial Times Sharif critical of Obama's regional strategy - 1 hr ago
New York Times Can Pakistan Be Governed? - 34 hrs ago
Washington PostPakistan court allows Sharifs to take back Punjab - 35 hrs ago
Arab News Court restores Shahbaz Sharif's govt - 36 hrs ago
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