Islamabad: US President Bill Clinton visited Pakistan in 2000 to save deposed premier Nawaz Sharif from the gallows and tried to take him out of the country, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz has claimed.
"The sole purpose of Clinton's visit to Pakistan was to save Sharif from hanging," Aziz said, adding that Clinton was driven by humanitarian objectives and wanted that no personal vendetta be carried out against Sharif after his government was overthrown by General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in a coup in October 1999.
In April 2000, days after Clinton's departure, Pakistani courts had sentenced the deposed Prime Minister Sharif to life imprisonment rather than the gallows.
After intervention by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the US, Sharif was sent to exile in Saudi Arabia.
"The final agreement took place after he (Musharraf) came to know through Lebanese business tycoon and the country's then PM Rafiq-Al-Hariri that the Saudis were angry over Sharif's treatment by the government after his ouster from power," he added.
Aziz, who held the prime minister's office under Musharraf from 2004 to 2007, further claimed that both Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto did not want Sharif to return to Pakistan before the 2008 general elections and tried to keep him in exile.
Talking in a Geo TV's programme about the claims made in his recently published book 'From Banking to the Thorny World of Politics', Aziz said:
"The then US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Richard Boucher told me that both Musharraf and Bhutto wanted Sharif to stay abroad to avoid competition."
He also claimed that the US also found merit in the preposition and had wanted Benazir to become the prime minister with Musharraf remaining president.