The ruling by the Islamabad High Court against Khawaja Asif was the latest in a series of court decisions that have gone against the governing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party (PML-N).

In this file picture, Pakistan's then defence minister Khawaja Asif speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Islamabad, Pakistan. March 6, 2014.
In this file picture, Pakistan's then defence minister Khawaja Asif speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Islamabad, Pakistan. March 6, 2014. (Reuters)

A Pakistan court on Thursday disqualified Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif for violating the country's election laws.

The ruling is seen as another major blow to the ruling party as it prepares for nationwide polls due later this year.

Last July, its leader Nawaz Sharif was ousted from the premiership by the Supreme Court over graft allegations and then barred from politics for life by another decision earlier this month.

Asif - who had earlier served as the country's minister of defence - was found guilty of failing to declare several work permits in the United Arab Emirates, a violation of Pakistan's election laws.

"We declare that the respondent was not qualified to contest the General Election of 2013," read the court's ruling, referring to the country's last nationwide polls.

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

He was serving his fourth consecutive term as a member of the National Assembly, the Pakistani parliament's lower house, before the verdict.

Former prime minister Sharif and his supporters have repeatedly denied allegations of corruption, suggesting they are victims of a conspiracy driven by Pakistan's powerful military to reduce the power of their party.

TRT World spoke to Islamabad-based journalist Kamran Yousaf for latest on the story. 

Sharif lambasts courts

Following the latest decision, Sharif lambasted the courts and what he called the persecution of the country's politicians by the military.

"Not a single prime minister has completed a term in the history of the country, we must find out why," Sharif said in a televised address to supporters.

Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan's 70-year history – roughly half of it under military rule – to be removed before completing a full term.

The Islamabad court's ruling against Asif comes months ahead of expected general elections, which will pit the PML-N against its main rival, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) led by former cricket star Imran Khan.

The PTI praised Khawaja's ousting on Thursday, boasting the verdict would energise its ranks ahead of a rally over the weekend in Lahore – Pakistan's second-largest city – that was set to highlight alleged corruption within the PML-N ranks.

Supporters of the opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party distribute sweets to celebrate disqualification of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif from parliament, outside the Islamabad High Court in Islamabad, Pakistan. April 26, 2018.
Supporters of the opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party distribute sweets to celebrate disqualification of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif from parliament, outside the Islamabad High Court in Islamabad, Pakistan. April 26, 2018. (Reuters)

"This decision is a great victory for PTI," Fawad Chaudhry, the party spokesman, told reporters outside the court.

Despite several rulings against the PML-N, the party has won a string of recent by-elections, proving it will likely remain a force in the next polls.

"Remember: the people will now vote even for Khawaja Asif's shadow," Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of former prime minister, wrote on Twitter, calling the proceedings a "fixed match".

The Newsmakers interview

TRT World interviewed Asif in December 2017. He told The Newsmakers' Imran Garda that Pakistan would no longer allow the United States to use his country as a proxy and wash their hands of any responsibility.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies