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Pakistan court hears Sharif's plea to end exile

world Updated: Aug 17, 2007 10:59 IST

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Pakistan's Supreme Court resumed hearing a petition on Thursday by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who is seeking to return home after seven years in exile since he was ousted in a military coup.

Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, another former prime minister in exile, are both hoping to come home and take part in elections that beleaguered military ruler Pervez Musharraf has promised will be free and fair.

President Musharraf overthrew Sharif in 1999 and he was sentenced to life in prison on various charges. Sharif and his family later went to Saudi Arabia after the government says he agreed to 10 years of exile.

But Sharif denies any such deal and has filed a petition in the top court seeking to clear the way for the return of himself and his family.

The government's top lawyer told the court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Sharif had agreed to a deal and documents spelling out its terms would be presented at the next hearing on Aug. 23.

"We want to bring before the court an understanding which would show under what circumstances the petitioner and his family went abroad," Attorney General Malik Abdul Qayyum told reporters after the hearing.

In an indication of the importance of the case, a two-member bench of the court that presided over the opening of the case last week was expanded to include five judges.

Sharif still faces corruption charges in Pakistan, as does Bhutto, who left the country nearly a decade ago but also vowed to return soon.