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Trial for Sharif graft cases tomorrow

With a special court set to take up revived graft cases against former PM Nawaz Sharif, PPP-led Govt claims it had no role in the reopening of the trial.

world Updated: Sep 03, 2008 20:14 IST

With a special court set to take up revived graft cases against former Premier Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's PPP-led government on Wednesday claimed it had no role in the reopening of the trial against its estranged ally.

Special Judge (Central) Shaukat Ali Sajid will on Thursday hear the corruption references against Sharif and his brother Shahbaz, which had been pending since July 15, 2000, the state-run APP news agency reported.

The country's controversial anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday filed an application seeking resumption of the trial, a move described as politically motivated by Sharif's lawyer.

"It appears to be aimed at using the accountability courts against Nawaz Sharif. It appears to be used for political ends," lawyer Khwaja Haris had said.

The decision of the Bureau, which is under the Law Ministry, to reopen the case came just nine days after Sharif pulled his PML-N party out of the PPP-led ruling coalition citing non-fulfilment of its demand to restore judges deposed by former President Pervez Musharraf.

These cases were indefinitely adjourned last month by an anti-corruption court in Rawalpindi on technical grounds.

Responding to criticism that the PPP has launched a witch-hunt against the PML-N chief, Minister for Law and Justice Farooq H Naek said Pakistan Peoples Party did not believe in political victimisation or vendetta.

Naek told the Senate that the government did not initiate any case against Sharif or Shahbaz.

The cases against Sharif in the NAB, which remained dormant during his exile, have been re-opened by the NAB prosecutor on his own, Naek said.

"I have called the NAB chairman in my office and will look into who is responsible," he added.

He said the cabinet in a recent meeting had decided to dissolve NAB before the election of the new President.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also sought to play down the move against the Sharif brothers yesterday and described the NAB as a "worthless body".

Speaking about the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) issued by Musharraf, which gave amnesty to then PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto as well as present PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari among others, Naek said it was promulgated after none of the cases, which were pending for over 11 years, could be proved on merit.

The PPP-PML(N) feud worsened as the September six presidential polls drew nearer. Sharif has said he would not withdraw the PML-N's candidate, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, who is contesting against front-runner Zardari.

Gilani yesterday said the PPP would restore the judiciary to pre-emergency position and would then request the PML-N to rejoin the government.