THE Lahore High Court verdict disqualifying PML(N) Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif from contesting the by-election due tomorrow, comes amidst growing perception that the forces averse to democracy are acting from behind the scenes to prevent him from entering the Parliament. A full bench meanwhile kept an election petition against Mian Shahbaz Sharif pending and allowed him to continue to serve as the Punjab Chief Minister till the Election Commission had decided about his eligibility. The Bench proceeded ex-parte against the Sharif Brothers since they failed to appear before the court personally or through their counsel despite having been issued notices. It also turned down applications from some of their supporters, including lawyers and Punjab Assembly Speaker to contest the case. Mian Nawaz and Mian Shahbaz have been facing legal challenges to their nominations since the EC allowed them to stay in the run following a split verdict by a two-member LHC election tribunal on the objections raised against them. Mian Nawaz was judicially barred from contesting the by-election after the court received two petitions separately filed by an independent candidate and a voter who sought his disqualification for being a defaulter and a convict. The verdict was widely resented by the political leadership and the people representing various walks of life. PML (N) leaders and workers staged protest rallies across the province while the party legislators boycotted the proceedings of the National and Punjab Assemblies. Leaving aside the merits of the case, it is going to have far-reaching ramifications for national politics and can also adversely affect the present ruling coalition, which is already shaken by mutual distrust. PPP spokesman Farhatullah Baber went to the extent of saying that his party was disappointed by Mian Nawaz's disqualification, describing it as a conspiracy against democracy. Mian Shahbaz, who will continue to have a Damocles' Sword hanging over his head, has refused to appear before the election tribunal, saying he would not appear before the election tribunal even if he risked losing the Punjab government. As he pointed out, the court decision would strain relations between the PPP and PML (N), his party colleagues accused the coalition partners of acting as silent spectators. The Sharifs' counsel Ashtar Ausaf Ali meanwhile told BBC on Tuesday that the federal government would challenge Mian Nawaz's disqualification in the court since he stuck to his stance that he would not appear before the PCO judges. It is going to be a test case for the PPP leadership, which presides the government at the centre, to not only dispel misgivings about itself but also save the coalition from falling apart and foil conspiracies against democracy.