Verdict reserved in Sharif plane ‘hijack’ case


Islamabad : The Supreme Court Thursday reserved orders in a case in which former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is accused of “hijacking” an aircraft carrying then army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf by attempting to prevent it land at Karachi in 1999.

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Concluding his arguments in the case, Sindh Prosecutor General Shahadat Awan maintained that Sharif had been rightly convicted by the trial court and his appeal was thus liable to be dismissed.

He also contended that the petition was time-barred, as under Supreme Court rules, an appeal has to be filed within a month of the verdict having been announced.

At the same time, Awan left a window open, saying that the Supreme Court could condone the delay if it was satisfied with the reason for this.

The case relates to Sharif’s attempts to block an aircraft carrying Musharraf, the army chief he had sacked, from landing at Karachi in October 1999.

The army subsequently took over the airport and cleared the blockades to enable the aircraft, which was on a flight from Colombo to land with barely a few minutes of fuel left.

Musharraf subsequently overthrew Nawaz Sharif and, a year later, sent him into exile in Saudi Arabia. Nawaz Sharif returned home in September 2007.

In February, the Supreme Court had cited Sharif’s conviction to bar him from contesting elections or holding public office.

The court passed a similar stricture against Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif for his conviction for graft. The verdict forced Shahbaz Sharif to step down as the chief minister of Punjab province.

Nawaz Sharif protested the court verdict by jumping on to a lawyers’ “long march” to Islamabad to demand the reinstatement of the Supreme Court judges Musharraf had sacked after imposing an emergency in November 2007.

The government initially acted tough but relented March 16 when the marchers entered Islamabad. The judges were reinstated and the government appealed the verdict against the Sharif brothers. The Supreme Court then reversed the bans against the Sharif brothers even as it took up their appeals for hearing.