Pakistan’s Sharif placed under house arrest

Sharif's party is backing thousands of lawyers who are on a four-day march.
Pakistan has placed opposition leader Nawaz Sharif under house arrest for three days, his party told CNN.

Sharif, who heads the Pakistan Muslim League – N (PML-N), was ordered confined to his residence in the city of Lahore from 8 a.m. Sunday (0300 GMT), said the party’s acting President Makhdoom Javed Hashmi. The police detention order said the move was meant to preserve law and order, Hashmi said. Sharif’s party is backing thousands of lawyers who are on a four-day march that demonstrators plan to cap with a sit-in at the parliament building in Islamabad on Monday. He was expected to address crowds ahead of the sit-in. The lawyers are demanding the government immediately restore judges the previous president, Pervez Musharraf, had ousted. Sharif’s party has its own reasons to go along with the protests: The Supreme Court ruled last month that Sharif cannot hold public office, citing a criminal record that dates to the late 1990s. The court also stripped Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, from his post as chief minister of Punjab — the Sharif party’s power center. The brothers have condemned the court’s decision as politically motivated, accusing the court of acting at the behest of President Asif Ali Zardari. Adding to their outrage, Zardari suspended Punjab’s parliament and imposed executive rule there for two months.

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The Pakistani government has said it is requesting a review of a court ruling. The decision to file a review petition was made during a meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Zardari, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported Saturday. Meanwhile, a Pakistani television station, which has been critical of the government, has been shut down in locations across the country, according to the station’s managing director. Government officials have instructed cable operators to remove GEO-TV from the airwaves or push it farther down in the channel order, Azhar Abbas said Saturday. The channel signal has been blocked in certain areas, but other cable operators are still carrying it. The channel is functioning and broadcasting in some areas in Pakistan. GEO-TV, which is known to have an anti-establishment stance, has criticized the government in recent weeks. The station has aired numerous reports on the recent lawyers’ movement.

The restrictions on local media has also led to the resignation of Pakistan’s Information Minister Sherry Rehman, a high-ranking source in the Ministry of Information told CNN on Saturday. Rehman handed in her resignation to Gilani, the source said. Repeated phone calls from CNN to the Pakistani government for comment were not returned.