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Pakistan court overturns ex-PM Nawaz Sharif's graft conviction - lawyer

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Sharif addresses supporters upon his arrival in Lahore

By Asif Shahzad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -A Pakistan court overturned the conviction of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a corruption case on Wednesday, his lawyer said, removing one of the many obstacles for him to qualify to stand in elections in February.

The veteran politician. who arrived back home from four years of self-imposed exile in London last month, is eyeing to become the prime minister for a fourth time, according to his party.

To qualify to stand in elections scheduled for Feb. 8, 2024, he needs another such seven-year sentence and a lifelong ban on holding any public office to be removed.

Analysts have said that Sharif's relationship with the country's powerful military, which mostly decides who will rule the nation of 241 million people, is now in a cordial phase which could boost him against his rivals.

Sharif was convicted in 2018 on corruption charges in a case linked to his family's purchase of upscale London flats, and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The Islamabad High Court announced its decision after the national anti-graft body did not contest Sharif's appeal for his acquittal, lawyer Azam Nazeer Tarar said.

"I had left it to the mercy of God," the former premier said in comments broadcast live on local TV after he left the court.

Sharif had been out on bail pending the appeal and had always denied any wrongdoing, saying the charges were politically motivated.

He has said he was ousted from government at the behest of the powerful military after he fell out with top generals, who play an outsized role in Pakistani politics, an accusation the army denies.

Sharif, who alleges that the military then backed jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the 2018 election, faces the former cricket star as the main challenge in the upcoming elections.

The military and Khan too fell out in 2022, and over the last few months they have been involved in a bruising showdown, which has afforded Sharif some political space.

The military denies that it interferes in politics.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Angus MacSwan)