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'Benazir must face graft charges'

Pakistan PM Shaukat Aziz says the former Premier Benazir Bhutto is free to return to Pakistan, but must face corruption charges.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Washington
UPDATED ON OCT 15, 2007 11:58 PM IST

Former Premier Benazir Bhutto is free to return to Pakistan, but must face corruption charges against her, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said.

54-year-old Bhutto is scheduled to return to Pakistan on Thursday after nine years in exile though the Supreme court is yet to decide on her amnesty granted by President Musharraf.

“... She is free to come and, you know, the laws of the land will apply to her, like any other citizen of Pakistan,” Aziz told CNN on Sunday night.

“Bhutto has several corruption cases against her. We have given immunity to her and the Supreme Court is looking at whether this law meets the requirements of the constitution. The people have had a strong reaction to removal of corruption cases against her,” he said.

Aziz said Bhutto’s case is different from that of another exiled former prime minister and chief of Opposition party PML-N Nawaz Sharif. The latter was deported to Saudi Arabia within hours after returning to Pakistan from his forced exile on September 10.

“... The two cases are very different. In Sharif’s case, he was sentenced by courts here for offenses he had committed. And then through a plea bargaining mechanism he left the country and said that he would not come back for 10 years,” Aziz said in response to a query.

He vigorously defended the recently concluded election brushing aside the contention in some quarters that the poll was not a legitimate one.

“...The election was very legitimate and in line with the constitution, was held by an independent election commission. Musharraf secured 57 per cent of the vote, and whether the Opposition had participated or not, we had a comfortable majority in the electoral college.

“At this time, the courts are in the process of finalising the legal issues which surround the election and we hope that this issue will be put to bed in the next few days,” he said.

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