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Pakistan high court acquits ex-PM Sharif of hijacking, allows him to run for office

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Friday acquitted [judgment, PDF] opposition leader Nawaz Sharif on charges of hijacking a plane carrying General Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archives] in 1999. The conviction had barred Sharif from running for office, although the court lifted the ban [JURIST reports] in May. It was alleged that then-prime minister Sharif ordered Musharraf's return flight to the country not to be permitted to land and to be diverted to another country after replacing him as chief of the Army Staff. The order came during a coup against Sharif that ultimately succeeded. The country's anti-terrorism court in 2000 acquitted all of the defendants in the case except Sharif. The Supreme Court ruled that, "looking at the case from any angle," hijacking or terrorism charges do not stand against Sharif.

After his conviction, the ruling was suspended [JURIST report] after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] petitioned the court to review the decision [JURIST report]. Earlier this year, Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) [party website] led a protest march [JURIST report] against Zardari and his Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [party website] as part of the Pakistan lawyers' movement [JURIST news archive]. In March, Zardari formed a parliamentary committee [JURIST report] to review key terms of the Pakistani Constitution, and reinstated [JURIST report] Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive], who was ousted in 2007 after then-president Musharraf declared a state of emergency rule.

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