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Police end standoff in Pakistan

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LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Police ended a nine-hour standoff with the wife of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif early Sunday, forcing her to drive to the family home outside the eastern Punjab capital of Lahore, police Inspector Mohammed Riaz said.

Sharif's wife, Kulsoom, kept police at bay for nine hours, refusing to leave her vehicle after a brief car chase through the congested streets of Lahore that ended at an army compound. There she remained with her three companions, refusing to leave the vehicle while police stood guard.

For nine hours police tried to cajole the ousted prime minister's wife into leaving the vehicle.

Eventually she agreed to drive the vehicle to the Sharif family compound in Raiwind, 10 miles outside Lahore. It's not clear what persuaded Ms. Sharif to end the standoff.

The drama began early Saturday when police surrounded Ms. Sharif's home to prevent her from launching an anti-government march from Lahore to Peshawar, 300 miles to the northwest. The march was intended to protest the army government that overthrew her husband's civilian government last October.

Ms. Sharif said she would try to conduct the march later.

"The champions of democracy and human rights have exposed their real faces by arresting an innocent woman. But they cannot stop us from our struggle for the restoration of democracy," she said.

The ousted prime minister is in jail serving two concurrent life terms on charges of terrorism and kidnapping. He also faces several charges of corruption.

The military government banned marches and protest rallies several months ago saying the first order of business was to get Pakistan's failed economy working and the endemic corruption rooted out before opening the door to public demonstrations that could destabilize the country.

Army ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf has promised to restore democracy to this poor nation of 140 million people within three years in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling.

On Friday police conducted raids throughout the country arresting as many as 260 Sharif supporters to prevent the march. Barricades have been erected outside the Sharif residence where scores of police have been deployed.

Some of Sharif's supporters said there were more raids conducted throughout the night Saturday.

"All night long police raided homes of our supporters and are now barring workers from assembling at Nawaz Sharif's home," said Tehmina Daultana, a party worker and former Parliamentarian.

Sharif's wife, who was rarely seen in public when her husband was in power, is now spearheading the anti-government campaign. But deep divisions have emerged within the former ruling Pakistan Muslim League party with some leaders expressing resentment over her leadership.