Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has urged Nawaz Sharif not to return home and said that an "eminent personality" asked the former prime minister to honour his agreement with the government to complete 10 years in exile.
"I also urge him to abide by the agreement," the president on Wednesday told a gathering while inaugurating a bridge linking Pind Dadan Khan with Mandi Bhauddin in Punjab Province, the Dawn newspaper reported on Thursday.
Sharif had reportedly entered into an agreement to go into exile for 10 years to avoid life imprisonment in a case of hijacking that emanated from his order to divert a plane carrying Musharraf home from a foreign tour just before the general toppled him in a bloodless coup in 1999.
The president said: "He had entered into a written agreement with a 'very eminent personality', a great friend and well-wisher of Pakistan, and the said person has given him a message not to violate the agreement."
The government says the agreement struck in 2000, a year after Sharif's ouster, was brokered by Saudi Arabia and the Lebanese Hariri family.
Asking the former prime minister to "show character and not violate the agreement", the president told the gathering that Sharif himself had given his option to go abroad to avoid his life imprisonment. "He was sentenced for life and pleaded the 'eminent personality' to save him and had gone abroad to avoid the imprisonment."
The Supreme Court last week, while giving its verdict on a petition by Sharif to be allowed to return home, had ruled that his exile was illegal and as a citizen of Pakistan he had an "inalienable right" to return home unobstructed. Following the judgement, the government threatened that it would reopen cases against Sharif and arrest him once he is on Pakistani soil.