Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday scrapped lifetime bans from contesting elections for people with past convictions, Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa said, giving Nawaz Sharif the chance to become prime minister for a fourth time.

Sharif's party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), is considered a frontrunner to win the election, scheduled for Feb. 8, with his main rival, former prime minister Imran Khan, in jail and barred from contesting the polls for five years.

Sharif, 74, was found guilty in 2017 of dishonest practices and a subsequent ruling from the Supreme Court barred for life people found guilty under certain constitutional provisions, including Sharif.

While Sharif was not an applicant in the latest case, which was filed by other banned politicians, the verdict makes him eligible to contest the polls as more than five years have elapsed since his 2017 conviction.

In his ruling, Isa said: "It is beyond its scope."

Khan, 71, whose party won the last elections in 2018, will not benefit from the ruling as it abolishes only lifetime bans, which means the cricketer-turned-politican remains disqualified until 2028.

(Reporting by Islamabad Bureau; Editing by Alex Richardson and Alison Williams)