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Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 18:12 UK

Sharif facing corruption cases

Nawaz Sharif (23rd August)
Mr Sharif's party pulled out of government last week

Prosecutors in Pakistan say they are pressing ahead with corruption cases against opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.

The charges were filed after Mr Sharif was ousted as premier in 1999 and his spokesman said they were politically motivated, which the government denies.

Mr Sharif pulled his party out of the coalition last week in a dispute with the main party, the PPP.

Legislators vote for a new president on Saturday and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari is thought likely to win.

Mr Sharif's party will put up its own candidate for president.

'Blackmail'

A prosecutor for Pakistan's anti-corruption agency, the National Accountability Bureau, said he had asked a court to review a decision to postpone indefinitely a hearing into charges of corruption and tax evasion facing Mr Sharif.

Sometimes, if you cannot get things done politically, then you try to blackmail the opposition
Sharif aide Ahsan Iqbal

"We expect the special judge Central Rawalpindi Courts to hear the case on 4 September," the prosecutor, Zulfiqar Bhutta, told the BBC.

He denied there was any political motive for the move.

A spokesman for Mr Sharif's PML-N said he hoped the governing Pakistan People's Party was not resorting to "blackmail".

"The political process must show maturity and, particularly, the government must realise that these are tried, tested and failed tactics of the past," the spokesman, Ahsan Iqbal, told Dawn Television.

Information Minister Sherry Rehman said the legal moves had nothing to do with the PPP, which she said would "not pursue the politics of revenge".

Amnesty

The PPP and PML-N emerged as the two biggest parties following elections earlier this year, trouncing allies of former President Pervez Musharraf.

They formed a fragile coalition - but their only success was to force him from office last month.

They split over the reinstatement of judges he sacked and who should replace him.

Mr Zardari and his wife, murdered former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, faced a host of corruption allegations over the years.

Correspondents say the PPP fears that if the judges sacked by Mr Musharraf get their jobs back, they may invalidate an amnesty that paved the way for Mr Zardari and Ms Bhutto to return to the country last year.

That would leave Mr Zardari open to prosecution. Mr Sharif was not covered under the amnesty.



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