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Last Updated: Friday, 17 August 2007, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Court blow for Pakistan's ex-PM
By M Ilyas Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Nawaz Sharif
Mr Sharif was deposed in a coup
A court in Pakistan has ruled that cases of alleged corruption against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may be opened again.

The cases were closed at the government's request and Mr Sharif was sent into exile in December 2000.

Mr Sharif said this week that the government's request to reopen the cases was an attempt to prevent him for returning to Pakistan.

He has filed a petition in the Supreme Court pleading for his right to return.

Ardent critic

Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayum, who represents the government, told the Supreme Court in a recent hearing that Mr Sharif had left the country for 10 years under a deal reached between him and the government, with the Saudi government as the guarantor.

Legal experts believe the government has moved to reopen the corruption cases in anticipation of a Supreme Court verdict that may allow him to return.

The ruling means Mr Sharif could be arrested if he did.

The cases were initiated by the National Accountability Bureau in 2000, after Mr Sharif's government was overthrown by Gen Pervez Musharraf in a coup in October 1999.

A special anti-terrorism court convicted Mr Sharif on charges of hijacking and terrorism and passed a sentence of life imprisonment.

The ousted premier was charged with endangering the lives of Gen Musharraf and nearly 200 passengers on a commercial flight.

Gen Musharraf was returning to Pakistan from Sri Lanka and Mr Sharif was said to have issued orders preventing his plane from landing in Karachi.

The plane was eventually able to land and Mr Sharif was overthrown.

Mr Sharif and several of his family members were jailed.

Mr Sharif has been the most ardent critic of Gen Musharraf's government.

He heads a new opposition alliance that seeks to prevent Gen Musharraf from becoming president for another term.

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