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Pakistan's Supreme Court Allows Ex-Leader To Return Home From Exile

  • VOA News

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he will return to Pakistan as soon as possible. His comments follow a Supreme Court ruling earlier Thursday overturning his forced exile.

Mr. Sharif told reporters in London Thursday that he was not afraid of any charges he may face upon his return. He has vowed to oppose President Pervez Musharraf in the country's upcoming presidential election.

The Supreme Court decision said Mr. Sharif and his family had an "inalienable right" to enter the country as citizens of Pakistan. It also warned the authorities not to obstruct his return.

Mr. Sharif was overthrown and forced into exile by General Musharraf in a 1999 coup. He was sentenced to life in prison on several charges. He and his family later went to live in Saudi Arabia.

A US State Department spokesman, Gonzalo Gallegos said the ruling is a matter for the Pakistani legal system. He also said the United States would like to see a strengthening of the country's democratic traditions.

Mr. Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, another former prime minister in exile, plan to challenge General Musharraf in the elections.
Ms. Bhutto has been discussing a possible powersharing deal with General Musharraf. She has demanded the president must give up his post as army chief if he wants an agreement with the opposition.

Ms. Bhutto served twice as prime minister before leaving Pakistan in the 1990s amid corruption charges.

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