ISLAMABAD, 2 March 2008 — A special anti-terrorism court yesterday acquitted the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of charges that he ordered police to kill five people in 1998.
Shahbaz Sharif was the chief minister of the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab when the five men were killed in what their families had said were fake shootouts with police.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Aftab Bajwa, said the families withdrew their accusations yesterday, telling the court of Shabbir Hussain Chattha they did not want Shahbaz Sharif to be tried.
Bajwa would not say why the families withdrew their complaint. The relatives also refused to give an explanation.
Bajwa said that now that Shahbaz has been acquitted, he cannot be tried again.
The five were killed on April 4, 1998 in the jurisdiction of Sabzazar police station and a case of murder was registered against 12 people including Shahbaz Sharif on March 29, 2001.
The surprising turnaround came as Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N is in talks with Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, which won Feb. 18 parliamentary elections, to form a ruling coalition government.
Pakistan Muslim League-N is also expected to form the government in Punjab after winning the provincial assembly elections there.
Shahbaz got involved in the case when the father of two of the victims petitioned the Lahore High Court to have him named as a defendant for allegedly abetting the murders.
Shahbaz has denied any involvement in the killings.
The police had acknowledged killing the five men, but claimed they were suspected robbers who were shot while trying to flee.
Shahbaz could not take part in the Feb. 18 election because he was on trial for murder. Following his acquittal, he is eligible to contest a by-election.
Nawaz Sharif was also barred from the election because he was convicted of charges of hijacking and terrorism after being toppled as prime minister in a 1999 coup by Pervez Musharraf, who at the time was the army chief.
— With input from agencies