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The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad
"Mr Zahid's evidence directly implicates Mr Sharif"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 14:01 GMT
Sharif 'diverted aircraft'

Security has been tight at the special court

The trial of the ousted Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, entered its third week on Wednesday with more statements from prosecution witnesses.

The trial centres on the events of 12 October, when General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a bloodless military coup.

Pakistan in crisis
A key witness told the court that Mr Sharif had personally ordered the plane carrying General Musharraf to be diverted to the Middle East.

The prosecution says Mr Sharif's order to prevent the plane from landing at Karachi airport, despite it being low on fuel, endangered the lives of all those on board.

Sharif's order

Mahmood Zahid, who was the prime minister's chief protocol officer, said Mr Sharif had personally supervised the diversion of the plane from Karachi on the night of the coup.

The prime minister asked me to contact the chairman of PIA and to convey that this flight should be diverted to Muscat
Mahmood Zahid
"The prime minister asked me to contact the chairman of [Pakistan International Airlines] and to convey that this flight should be diverted to Muscat," Mr Zahid said.

On being told it was low on fuel, Mr Sharif allegedly ordered that the plane be refuelled at Nawabshah, before being flown to Muscat.

But Mr Sharif's attempt to prevent the plane from landing ended when army troops entered the prime minister's office.

A Karachi air traffic controller told the court earlier how he was ordered to tell the pilot of the general's plane that he had no permission to land inside Pakistan.

Manzoor Ahmad said he subsequently heard an army officer telling the pilot he could now land at Karachi.

Mr Sharif's defence lawyers are arguing that he only tried to stop the plane landing after the coup had been launched.

Interest waning

The BBC's correspondent in Karachi, Owen Bennett-Jones, says public interest in the trial - which is expected to continue for several more weeks - is waning, and it is no longer front-page news.

New witnesses will describe what happened at the prime minister's house
Raja Qureshi, advocate-general Sindh province
Raja Qureshi, advocate-general of Sindh province, said the prosecution planned to introduce at least 10 more witnesses.

Mr Qureshi said the new witnesses would describe what happened at the prime minister's house on the night in question.

Not guilty plea

After that, Mr Sharif and his co-accused will make statements, then defence witnesses will give their testimonies.

sharif in karachi Mr Sharif could face the death penalty
Mr Sharif, his brother, Shahbaz, and five others have been charged with abduction, attempted murder, hijacking and terrorism.

All have pleaded not guilty. If convicted of the hijacking charge, they face a possible death penalty.

Mr Sharif has been in detention since he was overthrown in the coup.

The hearing has been adjourned until Thursday.

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See also:
02 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Pilot describes coup flight fears
27 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Sharif stops plane 'before coup'
30 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Justice under scrutiny
26 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Key witness testifies against Sharif
21 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Sharif had 'jailbreak plan'
13 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Profile: Nawaz Sharif
13 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
11 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan's coup: The 17-hour victory

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