A Pakistani prosecutor said on Tuesday he wanted corruption cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif taken up by the courts in a move Sharif's party said was politically motivated.
Sharif, ousted as prime minister by then army chief Pervez Musharraf in 1999 coup, returned from exile in October and led his party in a February election in which it came second to the party of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Sharif pulled his party out of a coalition with Bhutto's party last week, compounding investors' worries about political turmoil that has triggered a slide in Pakistan's financial markets.
Bhutto and Sharif were bitter rivals in the 1990s, when both served two terms as prime minister, and the split in the coalition has raised fears of a return to the days of fierce competition between the two parties.
Sharif says the corruption charges, filed against him after he was overthrown in 1999, were politically motivated.
But a prosecutor for the state anti-graft agency, the National Accountability Bureau, said he had asked a court to review an Aug. 21 decision to put off indefinitely a hearing into three corruption accusations against Sharif.
"We have asked the court to review its decision ... and fix a date for the hearing," the prosecutor, Zulfiqar Bhutta, told Reuters. He denied there was any political motive for his request saying he wanted the court to proceed according to the law.
The move to press on with the case comes days before a presidential election.
Members of the country's four provincial assemblies and two houses of parliament will on Saturday elect a replacement for Musharraf, who resigned as president on Aug. 18.
Sharif has put forward a candidate, a former chief justice, Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, to challenge Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who analysts say is likely to win.
Sharif's lawyers were not immediately available for comment but a spokesman for his party said he was surprised by the move to press on with the cases and he hoped the ruling party was not resorting to "blackmail".
"The political process must show maturity and, particularly, the government must realise that these are tried, tested and failed tactics of the past," the spokesman, Ahsan Iqbal, told Dawn Television.
Sharif did not stand in the February parliamentary elections because the Election Commission rejected his nomination on the grounds of a past conviction.
But he had been expected to win a seat in a June by-election until a court in the eastern city of Lahore ruled he was ineligible to stand.
The government lodged an appeal in the Supreme Court against the ruling and it is due to hold another hearing into that case next week.
Analysts say Sharif has an eye on the next parliamentary elections which his party could win.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Eylül 2008, 11:26