Pak SC acquits Sharif of hijack charges
Judgment removes hurdles, helps former premier to return to electoral politics
Setting the stage for his comeback into electoral politics after a decade, Pakistan Supreme Court on Friday acquitted former premier Nawaz Sharif of hijacking charges stemming from the 1999 coup by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf against his government.
Fifty-nine-year-old Sharif had been banned from holding any public office by a lower court after being found guilty of hijacking then army chief Gen Musharraf’s plane in 1999.
Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, who headed the five-member bench and the author of the 55-page unanimous judgment, said the charge of hijack and attempt to hijack had not been established against Sharif “from any angle”.
The court also said there is not enough evidence against Sharif. “Looking at the case from any angle — the charge of hijacking, attempt to hijack or terrorism does not stand established against the petitioner,” the Supreme Court ruled on a petition filed by Sharif.
“The conviction and sentence of the appellant are set aside and he is acquitted,” said the order. “The petitioner had neither used force nor ordered its use and undisputedly no deceitful means were used.”
No blocks now
Pakistan’s attorney general Latif Khosa said there was no legal or constitutional impediment now facing Sharif, after the court also decided in May to overturn a ban on him holding office, allowing him to contest elections.
If a two-time limit on holding the post of premier is removed, Sharif can also become prime minister again.
The verdict came on a day when Sharif met President Asif Ali Zardari for the first time after his PML-N quit the Pakistan People’s Party-led federal government in August last year.
After the verdict, Zardari, who has been at loggerheads with Sharif, felicitated him. In a statement, he said the verdict further opened the door for Sharif’s return to electoral politics. He said it was a “step in the direction of ensuring a level playing field to all political leaders and parties and would strengthen the democratic process.” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also congratulated Sharif.