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A Pakistani court on Monday barred former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is one of the leaders of the ruling coalition, from contesting a by-election on June 26, a court order said.

Sharif and his younger brother were previously not allowed to take part in February's general elections due to criminal convictions dating back to a 1999 coup in which he was thrown from power.

"Nawaz Sharif is not a qualified candidate to contest a by-election," the court order issued by Lahore High Court said.

His brother's case was referred to the chief election commissioner.

The court did allow Sharif to continue as chief minister until a final decision on the case was made.

Sharif's rival candidates had argued that loan defaulters and people convicted of criminal charges could not contest elections.

The judges who gave the ruling were appointed by President Pervez Musharraf after he sacked some 60 judges under emergency rule fearing a Supreme Court verdict against his election candidacy.

Musharraf toppled Sharif in the 1999 coup and sent him and his family into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party has joined forces with slain former premier Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which won the most seats in the February polls, in which Musharraf's allies were trounced.

Sharif, a two-time prime minister, has refused to appear before Musharraf-appointed judges.

His party wants to reinstate judges sacked by Musharraf. Sharif pulled out his minister from the cabinet after the coalition failed to reinstate judges in on May 12.

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