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Britain lobbying for Musharraf: Report

Britain is trying to persuade Pakistani politicians to spare the former president Pervez Musharraf from treason charges, a newspaper reported Thursday quoting senior opposition figures.

world Updated: Aug 13, 2009 15:21 IST

Britain is trying to persuade Pakistani politicians to spare the former president Pervez Musharraf from treason charges, a newspaper reported Thursday quoting senior opposition figures.

The Daily Telegraph said a senior British diplomat had met former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif to urge him not to press for the extradition of Musharraf, who is currently in London.

The paper quoted a senior Sharif aide as saying Mark Lyall Grant, political director of the British foreign office and a former high commissioner to Pakistan, had urged Sharif "not to insist on this issue, that Pakistan needs stability and peace and to focus on the many challenges within and without.

"We need to prioritise and should not raise such problems for ourselves, it will divide the nation, he said," the aide said about the reported plea by Lyall Grant.

The British diplomat, after one of whose ancestors Lyallpur - now Faisalabad - is named, is said to have played a key role in convincing Musharraf to allow former premier Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari to return to Pakistan in 2007.

British sources denied Lyall Grant had intervened on behalf of Musharraf, but stressed the need to avoid any "distraction" from creating regional stability, the Daily Telegraph said.

Musharraf is facing charges of acting illegally in imposing emergency rule and ordering the house arrest of seven Supreme Court judges in November 2007.

He could be forced to give evidence in Pakistan if Islamabad presses for his extradition.

British media have recently speculated that Musharraf could have to spend a prolonged period in exile but Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted in a military coup in 1999, is said to be determined to bring the former army chief to trial.

The Daily Telegraph said Sharif believes Musharraf must also face treason charges to discourage military chiefs from seizing power in the future, although President Asif Ali Zardari opposes such a move. Conviction on treason charges carries the death penalty.

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