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Pakistanis Wonder If Courts Are Deciding The Fate Of Politicians Instead Of Elections

NOEL KING, HOST:

Now to Pakistan, where the country's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was dismissed by the Supreme Court yesterday in the wake of a corruption scandal. Today, Sharif announced that he will leave office, but he wants his brother to take over. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Islamabad.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Nawaz Sharif made the announcement in an address to his party this afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NAWAZ SHARIF: (Foreign language spoken).

HADID: His brother, Shehbaz Sharif, is the chief minister of Pakistan's most populous province, the Punjab. While he prepares, a Sharif aide and lawmaker will assume the position. Sharif's announcement today was a blow to those who hope the Supreme Court's decision would stunt his family's fortunes. Many here see political dynasties as a bane to Pakistan's democracy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHARIF: (Foreign language spoken).

HADID: But Sharif hints that he was removed from power at the behest of the army, the country's most powerful institution, and he's not alone. There's deep mistrust here.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

HADID: Braving a monsoon shower, about two dozen men gathered in front of the Islamabad Press Club. They chanted that the courts were acting in the service of the establishment. That's shorthand here for the military.

ASMA JEHANGIR: I wouldn't blame people if they suspect that there is a huge prejudice against democratic institutions by those who are appointed.

HADID: Asma Jehangir is the country's pre-eminent human rights lawyer. She says the bigger problem is that political parties are pushing the courts to make decisions about the fate of elected officials.

JEHANGIR: Because political parties do not learn to listen like everybody else in the country. We have a very suicidal mission, and we repeat the same mistakes.

HADID: Here, Jehangir is talking about Imran Khan. He's a prominent legislator. And he perhaps has the most to gain from Sharif's fall. Khan pushed the Supreme Court to investigate the Sharifs, and now they've push the court to investigate Khan's financial dealings. Jehangir and others now are wondering, are the courts being used to decide the fate of politicians instead of elections? Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Islamabad.

(SOUNDBITE OF PANTHA DU PRINCE'S "PHOTON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.