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Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 17:01 UK

Nawaz Sharif faces murder inquiry

By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Islamabad

Nawaz Sharif
Mr Sharif is one of the most popular politicians in Pakistan

Pakistan's Supreme court is set to hear petitions seeking the prosecution of the main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, for murder.

According to documents obtained by the BBC, the court will hear the accusations against Mr Sharif and then decide whether to pursue the charges.

The petitions call for Mr Sharif's arrest and prosecution.

He has denied ordering the murder of an ex-army officer after an alleged political kickbacks deal turned sour.

Nawaz Sharif, twice elected as Pakistan's prime minister, has recently been acquitted of similar criminal charges by the Supreme Court.

The court's decision was made on 21 July but it is expected to begin its inquiries imminently.

'Vindication'

"This is a false and totally politically motivated accusation," Ehsan Iqbal, spokesman for Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, told the BBC.

"This is only the latest in a series of recent accusations against Mr Sharif.

"The presidency and hidden hands are trying to pressurise him into backing down on his demand for prosecuting (former President) Musharraf."

However, the main petitioner in the case, Shahid Orakzai, said that the court ruling was the vindication of a long struggle.

"It has taken 12 years for the truth to prevail," said Mr Orakzai.

His brother, Maj Khalidsaeed Orakzai, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the northern town of Kohat in 1997.

Shahid Orakzai, a freelance journalist, says his brother was murdered because he went public with a political kickbacks deal.

The deal dates back to 1993 and allegedly involved Mr Sharif and senior party leaders.

At that time Mr Orakzai arranged a deal between them and parliamentarians from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The deal involved the payment of 10 million rupees to the parliamentarians in return for their support for the PML-N candidate for Speaker of Pakistan's parliament.

But the PML-N reneged on payment after the the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) candidate won the election.

This led to Mr Orakzai going public with the deal and asking the chief election commissioner (CEC) to take action.

However, the CEC refused and the matter ended up in court.

Eventually, the court accepted that the deal had taken place and Mr Orakzai's persistence led to awkward questions for Mr Sharif.

Mr Orakzai alleges that Mr Sharif subsequently ordered his brother to be murdered.

"It is utter rubbish and just part of a scheme to launch a character assassination of Mr Sharif," said Mr Iqbal.

"Mr Orakzai has often made himself part of petitions against Mr Sharif and everybody knows his connections to the intelligence agencies.

"If we are issued notices, we will deal with them, although we aren't too worried about them."



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SEE ALSO
Court in Pakistan acquits Sharif
17 Jul 09 |  South Asia
Election ban for Sharif brothers
25 Feb 09 |  South Asia
Profile: Nawaz Sharif
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Court lifts Sharif election ban
26 May 09 |  South Asia
Sharif's brother back in office
31 Mar 09 |  South Asia
Pakistan orders Sharif ban review
19 Mar 09 |  South Asia

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