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Sharif Appeals Expulsion from Pakistan

A lawyer for Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has filed a legal challenge against the government for deporting him from Pakistan. The government, however, has argued Mr. Sharif was not forcibly deported but instead chose to return to exile rather than face arrest on corruption charges. Daniel Schearf reports from Islamabad.

Mr. Sharif's lawyer filed a petition with Pakistan's Supreme Court Tuesday challenging the government's deportation of Mr. Sharif back to exile in Saudi Arabia.

The deposed former Prime Minister arrived in Pakistan Monday morning after serving seven years of an agreed ten years in exile.

But after being served with a warrant for his arrest on corruption charges, he was sent back to Saudi Arabia after only a few hours in the country.

Pakistan's Minister of State for Information, Tariq Azim, says contrary to numerous reports and opposition party comments the government did not deport Mr. Sharif or interfere in his return.

Azim says Mr. Sharif was "allowed all courtesies" and "handled graciously," but once he realized he might go to jail chose to return to exile in Saudi Arabia.

"He was given an option if he wanted to go to Saudi Arabia. And, he accepted that option," said Azim. "And, instead of going to a detention center he opted to go to Jeddah to complete his 10 years."

The former Prime Minister was attempting a return to Pakistan to mount a challenge to President Musharraf - the man who ousted him from power in 1999 in a military coup.

After the coup, the Musharraf government sentenced Mr. Sharif to life in prison on corruption charges but allowed him to go into exile in Saudi Arabia under a deal where he promised to stay away from Pakistan for a decade.

The deportation appears to fly in the face of a Supreme Court ruling last month saying the deal was not valid and Mr. Sharif should be allowed to return to Pakistan without government interference.

Mr. Musharraf has butted heads with the Supreme Court before. In March he attempted to fire the chief justice, sparking mass protests across the country.

Mr. Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), has condemned the deportation and is supporting a nation-wide lawyer's strike in protest at the government's actions.

The United States, a major ally of Mr. Musharraf against resurgent militants and terrorists in Pakistan, has said the deportation goes against the Supreme Court ruling.

The European Union has said Mr. Sharif should be allowed to return to Pakistan to face trial.

Another former Prime Minister in exile, Benazir Bhutto, is attempting to negotiate her way back into Pakistan politics through a power-sharing arrangement with Mr. Musharraf.