Pak polls: ex-PM Sharif's candidature under scrutiny

Pakistan's coming general elections increasingly look to be uneasy, as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has objected to the candidatures of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif on the ground that they had defaulted on a bank loans of 348 crore Pakistani rupees.

The country's anti-corruption watchdog raised the issue in an official communication sent to the Election Commission on Thursday.

Pakistan's poll panel today also rejected the nomination of former military president Pervez Musharraf after a rival candidate complained that he had several corruption cases pending against him.

Three graft cases against the Sharif brothers and their relatives are currently pending in an anti-corruption court in Rawalpindi, NAB officials told the media.

The Sharif brothers have been accused of defaulting on a loan taken for Hudaibiya Paper Mills, which they controlled.

Nawaz Sharif, the head of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nationalist party, and former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif were also accused of accumulating money and assets beyond their declared means of income by misusing their authority.

A case was filed against them in an anti-corruption court in Attack in March 2000 in this regard. Several of their relatives, including Nawaz Sharif's son Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shahbaz, Shamim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas, Maryam Safdar and Ishaq Dar, are among the accused.

A spokesman for the PML-N rejected the allegations against the party's top leadership, saying the accusations made by the NAB were "misleading".

He alleged that NAB officials were acting at the behest of the Pakistan People's Party-led government to target PML-N leaders.

The Election Commission recently made the NAB part of the set-up for scrutinising the candidates for the 11 May general election.

Shahbaz Sharif is contesting polls to the Punjab assembly while Nawaz Sharif is a candidate for polls to the national assembly.

The NAB has set up special election cells to facilitate the scrutiny of candidates.

The Election Commission has also roped in the Federal Bureau of Revenue, the State Bank of Pakistan and the National Database and Registration Authority in a bid to weed out candidates accused of corruption or wrong-doing.

The Election Commission has said that tax evaders, people who default on loans and utility bills, and beneficiaries of loan write-offs will be barred from contesting the polls.

''If such stringent criteria were to be applied in India, most of our politicians would be debarred from contesting elections,'' said a commentator wryly.

The May elections will mark the first transition in Pakistan's history from one democratic government to another.