Sharif feared arrest after deportation in 2007: WikiLeaks

Ex-Pakistani PM feared "he might be arrested" on his return to Saudi Arabia.

Islamabad: Former Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif feared "he might be arrested" on his return to Saudi Arabia after he was deported from Pakistan during an abortive attempt to return to the country from self-exile on September 10, 2007, according to a secret US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

After his return to Saudi Arabia, Sharif "thought that he might be arrested", but Prince Muqrin, the head of Saudi Arabian intelligence, gave him two options - "he could either stay at a palace that had been prepared for him, or at his home".

Sharif "opted to go to his home", according to details of the PML-N chief`s return to exile in Saudi Arabia shared by Muqrin with then US ambassador Ford M Fraker.

The details are documented in a secret cable from the US consulate in Jeddah sent on September 12, 2007. The cable also gives details of the secret agreement that allowed Sharif to go into exile in Saudi Arabia for 10 years after he convicted on charges like hijacking following the military coup against him by former president Pervez Musharraf.

"During ambassador Fraker`s meeting with Prince Muqrin, the Prince first summarised the 10-year agreement, brokered by Rafik Hariri, under which Sharif would live in Saudi Arabia and refrain from participating in Pakistani politics. He added that there was a verbal agreement that after five years, they would hold negotiations to consider reducing that 10-year period," the cable said.

Muqrin went on to describe "how Saad Al-Hariri warned Sharif not to return to Pakistan, but how Sharif disregarded the warning and went anyway".

After Sharif`s forced return from Pakistan to Jeddah, Muqrin received the former premier at the airport. Muqrin told Sharif that there would be "some restrictions" on his activities "for a short while, at least through the November elections, to reduce the likelihood of inciting rioting among his supporters in Pakistan".

The Saudi Prince was referring to the general election scheduled for November 2007 that was eventually put off till early 2008. Fraker was also told that "Sharif will remain in Saudi Arabia until after the Pakistani elections".

Sharif eventually returned to Pakistan on November 25, 2007, by which point elections authorities had announced that polls were to be held in early 2008.

Muqrin also "speculated that there is probably an agreement between Sharif and the Pakistani Chief Justice, adding that if the Chief Justice grants Sharif the right to return to Pakistan and Sharif wins, the Chief Justice will become President."

The Saudi Prince went on to state "that he is almost certain the Chief Justice will side with Sharif".

The Saudi intelligence chief was frank about Saudi preferences: "The Prince explained that King Abdullah views both Sharif and Musharraf as friends, but that he believes that the two together do not equate to Pakistani security. The
King feels that Musharraf is the best person to address anti-terrorism issues within Pakistan."

PTI

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