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Former Pakistan PM Bhutto facing corruption charges on return

[JURIST] Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC profile] will be allowed to return to Pakistan to campaign for office but will face corruption charges [JURIST report], the Pakistani government said Friday. Bhutto, who left the country in 1999 under the cloud of corruption allegations after her government collapsed, will return October 18, according to her party; her supporters have been in talks with President Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile] that may allow her to share power with Musharraf after Pakistan's upcoming presidential election, but the two have failed to agree on terms relating to Bhutto's corruption charges, Musharraf's possible re-election, and Bhutto's push to pass a constitutional amendment allowing her to seek a third term as prime minister. Observers say, however, that Bhutto risks losing substantial support from the Pakistani public and even her own Pakistani Peoples Party [party website] if she reaches any kind of agreement with Musharraf, who ousted a democratically elected government led by Bhutto successor Nawaz Sharif in a military coup.

The government's announcement on Bhutto comes at the heels of its refusal [JURIST report] to allow former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [BBC profile] to return to Pakistan on Monday. Sharif was initially served with an arrest warrant on corruption charges of his own when he arrived on a flight from London, but was later deported to Saudi Arabia. Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim explained the distinction between the two cases by saying that Bhutto had always been allowed to return to Pakistan, whereas Sharif had "an undertaking with the Saudi government" that forced him to return to exile in Saudi Arabia. Sharif had supposedly agreed to stay out of the country for 10 years after his ouster. He has since appealed [JURIST report] his deportation to the Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website], which previously ruled that he was allowed to return as a citizen of Pakistan. AP has more.

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