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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 October 2007, 17:51 GMT
Pakistan PM 'ignored top court'
Shaukat Aziz
Shaukat Aziz could be immune from contempt proceedings
Pakistan's top judge has accused Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of violating a Supreme Court judgement.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry criticised Mr Aziz while hearing a contempt case against him and several senior government officials.

He said Mr Aziz had arranged for the immediate deportation of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his return to the country in September.

Earlier the court said Mr Sharif had an inalienable right to return from exile.

Mr Chaudhry has in recent years passed several judgements against the government.

President Pervez Musharraf tried to sack him last March, provoking a storm of protests from Pakistan's legal community and opposition parties.

Nawaz Sharif was deposed by Gen Musharraf in a 1999 coup and went into exile the following year.

He flew into Islamabad on 10 September, after the Supreme Court ruled in August that he was entitled to return.

But hours after landing he was flown back to exile in Saudi Arabia.

'Prepare plane'

"By 6 September arrangements were being made to violate the order of this court... by the prime minister," Chief Justice Chaudhry said on Tuesday.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrives at Islamabad airport 10/9/07
Mr Sharif was deported hours after landing in Islamabad

He was speaking after hearing evidence from the senior official of the Foreign Ministry and the chairman of Pakistan International Airlines.

They said they had been ordered to have a plane ready on 10 September to fly an important person from Islamabad to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

It is not clear if Prime Minister Aziz would be immune from prosecution for contempt.

The offence can carry up to six months imprisonment, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Judge Chaudhry said that his August ruling on Mr Sharif's "inalienable right" to return to Pakistan "is very much intact... and is required to be implemented in letter and spirit".

The case has been adjourned until 8 November.

Mr Sharif says he will return again to Pakistan before parliamentary elections expected to take place in January.

Mr Sharif's rival, Benazir Bhutto, returned to Pakistan after years of self-imposed exile on 18 October. Several hours later she survived an assassination attempt that left more than 130 people dead.

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