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Central & South Asia
Sharif cleared to run for office
Ex-Pakistani PM acquitted by highest court of charges of hijacking Musharraf's jet.
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2009 07:31 GMT

Sharif returned to Pakistan in 2007
after years in exile [AFP]
 

Pakistan's highest court has acquitted Nawaz Sharif, the opposition leader, of charges of hijacking the plane of Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president, in 1999.

Friday's acquittal, oveturning a lower court conviction, allows Sharif to again run for elected office.

Sharif was prime minister at the time, while Musharraf was the head of Pakistan's army. Sharif had always insisted the ban was politically motivated.

In its ruling on Friday, the supreme court said there was no evidence to support the charge of hijacking and acquitted Sharif of the charges.

Shahadat Awan, a prosecutor, said the court's decision was unanimous.

'Mid-flight drama'

Sharif was accused of refusing to allow a commercial airliner with Musharraf and 200 passengers on board to land in Karachi October 12, 1999.

Profile: Nawaz Sharif

Musharraf was returning to Pakistan from Sri Lanka after he had been sacked as army chief by Sharif.

Hours after eventually landing, Musharraf launched a coup in which he took power as president of Pakistan, and Sharif went into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Musharraf had said that when the the Pakistan International Airlines plane eventually landed, only about seven minutes of fuel were left.

Sharif returned home in 2007 and later filed an appeal against his conviction in the hijacking case that barred him from office.

Earlier this year, the supreme court ruled Sharif was not eligible for office, prompting him to lead nationwide protests against the government of Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president.

Friday's ruling is the third in the past two months to lift a ban on Sharif's participation in elections and paves the way for him to contest a parliamentary ballot scheduled for 2013.

Source:
Agencies
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