Parliament makes way for Sharif to head party


Pakistan's lower house on Monday passed a controversial bill allowing the former prime minister to take charge of the ruling party despite being disqualified by the country's top court this July.

The approval of the Election Bill 2017 with a majority vote has removed the last hurdle in the way of the three-time premier to get re-elected as the head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party on Tuesday.

The bill allows a convicted person to lead a political party, a move that many political analysts say will give a new life to Sharif's career as a politician.

Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid moved the bill before the parliamentarians amid uproar by the opposition lawmakers who saw it as a move to benefit a single individual-Nawaz Sharif.

Footage aired on state-run Pakistan Television showed several enraged opposition members tearing off copies of the bill.

Sharif's party and its allies have more than 200 seats in the 342-member lower house, the National Assembly.

President Mamnoon Hussain is likely to sign the bill, as a mere formality, later on Monday.

Last month, the Senate, parliament's upper house, where Sharif and his allies enjoy a comfortable majority, passed the bill.

The ruling party has called a meeting on Tuesday in the capital Islamabad to re-elect Sharif, a move opposition parties have said they will challenge in the Supreme Court.

Earlier on Monday, the party amended its internal rules removing the clauses that barred a convicted person from leading the party.

Sharif, 67, who is facing multiple corruption cases, was rendered ineligible to act not only as prime minister but also head of his party following a Supreme Court verdict.

The court ruled in July that he had acted in an untrustworthy manner by failing to declare a salary from his son's Dubai-based company ahead of the 2013 election.

The court also ordered the opening of corruption cases against Sharif and his family members over revelations stemming from the Panama Papers scandal.

An Islamabad anti-corruption court which is hearing the corruption cases against Sharif and his family has already fixed Oct. 9 as the date for their indictment.

The former premier, who has held the premiership thrice but never completed a full term, maintains his innocence and has rejected all accusations of financial irregularities against him.

He has repeatedly said that all transactions made by his family members were fair and in compliance with the country's laws.

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