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Pakistan's Former PM Sharif to Return From Exile Sunday

Aides close to Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif say the exiled leader is set to return to Pakistan before Monday's registration deadline for parliamentary elections.

Senior leaders of Mr. Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party say the former prime minister and members of his family will arrive in the eastern city of Lahore Sunday.

His planned return from Saudi Arabia is prompting Pakistani opposition leaders to plan new strategies for the upcoming January 8 elections.

Mr. Sharif has been an outspoken critic of President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule, urging Pakistanis to rise up against the president.

It is not clear how Pakistani authorities will respond to Mr. Sharif's return. He was deported in September when he last attempted to enter Pakistan.

General Musharraf ousted Mr. Sharif in 1999 in a bloodless military coup.

Mr. Sharif was sentenced to life in prison, but General Musharraf allowed him to go into exile under a deal in which he promised to stay out of Pakistan for 10 years.

In another development, Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered President Musharraf to step down as military chief and take the oath of office by December 1. The court, stacked with judges appointed by General Musharraf, also declared Friday that the November 3 imposition of a state of emergency and suspension of the constitution were legal.

Pakistan's attorney general, Malik Mohammed Qayyum, says President Musharraf will take the oath of office early next week. The Supreme Court dismissed the final legal challenge to General Musharraf's October re-election victory Thursday.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her opposition Pakistan People's Party are still considering whether to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.