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Pakistan's Sharif expected to announce comeback plans in London

Pakistan's Sharif expected to announce comeback plans in London

Former Pakistani leader Nawaz Sharif was scheduled to declare in London Thursday when he will return home from exile and challenge President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's plans to extend his rule.
The planned announcement comes a day after Benazir Bhutto, another exiled former premier and Sharif's rival, said she was progressing toward an agreement with Musharraf that could see them share power.
Bhutto claimed Musharraf had agreed to step down as head of the army, ending military rule eight years after the general ousted Sharif in a bloodless coup.
The Supreme Court ruled last week that the conservative, secularist Sharif, who has been in exile since 2000, and his politician brother can return to Pakistan.
Shahbaz Sharif told Pakistan's Geo television that his brother would announce details of their return on Thursday.
However, government officials have said that Sharif, who has denounced Musharraf as a dictator, could be re-arrested upon reaching Pakistani soil on charges dating to the 1999 coup.
Musharraf had vowed to prevent both Bhutto and Sharif from entering Pakistan again, blaming them for corruption and economic problems that nearly bankrupted the country in the 1990s, when each had two turns as prime minister.
However, Musharraf has recently begun talking of the need for political reconciliation and an alliance of moderates to take on religious extremists.
But the attorney general, Malik Mohammed Qayyum, has suggested Sharif could face prosecution if he returned, saying "concessions" granted to Sharif for his release from jail were nullified by the Supreme Court's ruling.
The animosity between Musharraf and Sharif is rooted in the ex-premier's attempt to fire Musharraf as head of the army, an attempt that prompted the 1999 coup.
Sharif was arrested and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment on hijacking and terrorism charges. He was released after signing a pledge not to return to Pakistan for at least 10 years.
An official at Musharraf's office told The Associated Press that the government was in contact with Saudi and Lebanese leaders who had helped arrange Sharif's release and exile to ask them to dissuade the Sharif brothers from returning.
"Musharraf hopes that those who played a role to save Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif from the hardships of jail will stop Nawaz and Shahbaz from coming back to Pakistan to take part in politics," the official said.
He asked for anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the record.
Sharif went into exile in Saudi Arabia, but later shifted his base to London.
Another senior government official, who also sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005, had also asked Musharraf to pardon Sharif.
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Associated Press reporter Munir Ahmad in Islamabad contributed to this story.


Updated : 2021-08-02 22:24 GMT+08:00