An anti-corruption court in Islamabad on July 6 sentenced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in prison. His daughter Maryam Nawaz was sentenced to seven years in jail and and son-in-law captain (retired) Safdar awarded one-year jail term.
The court also imposed a fine of £8 million on Mr. Sharif and £2 million on Ms. Maryam.
The Sharifs’ lawyers said they would challenge the ruling in High Court.
Accountability Court judge Mohammed Bashir also rejected an application from the Sharifs to postpone the announcement of the verdict as Mr. Sharif is currently with his wife Kulsoom Nawaz in London who is on ventilator for the past three weeks.
“In the interest of justice, the announcement of order in the titled reference may be postponed for a minimum of seven days period,” the applications by the Sharifs stated.
Mr. Sharif had vowed to return to the country once his wife’s health improves.
Mr. Sharif was disqualified as Prime Minister in July 2017 by the Supreme Court following a challenge to his office by Opposition leader Imran khan on the basis of publication of the Panama Papers, which alleged that the Sharif family stashed away assets in London through offshore companies Nescoll and Nelson. The companies are owned by Mr. Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz. Assets in question are four expensive flats in London worth over £200 million.
Mr. Hussain Nawaz admitted ownership of the flats but denied that they were purchased through corruption money. He never appeared before the accountability court despite several notices. He has been declared a proclaimed offender.
Sharif, referring to the imprisonment handed to him, said that he has been punished because he tried to turn the course of Pakistan’s 70-year history. “I promise that I will continue this struggle until Pakistanis are not free of the chains that they are kept in for saying the truth,” Press Trust of India news agency quoted a defiant Sharif as telling reporters in London. “I will continue my struggle till the people of Pakistan are not freed of the slavery imposed on them by some generals and judges.”
Removed as head of PML-N
Mr. Nawaz Sharf, a three-time Prime Minister, was removed as head of the Pakistan Mulsim League-Nawaz (PML-N) by the Election Commission following his disqualification by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court disqualified him as not being truthful in his tax returns by not showing a salary as board of chairman of a Dubai-based company. But it instructed the Accountability Court to complete the probe on his assets in six months. The Accountability Court judge sought three extensions from the apex court before completing the probe last week after more than nine months.
The PML-N has termed the trial political victimization.
Pakistan is going to the polls on July 25. The convictions are a huge setback to the ruling PML-N, which has accused the country’s powerful military establishment of conspiring against the party by forcing its candidates to switch sides and join the Opposition or contest elections as independents.
The PML-N held a meeting in Lahore to discuss the court ruling and reaction to it. The party is now headed by Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shahbaz Sharif.
‘A black ruling’
Mr. Shahbaz Sharif termed the accountability court ruling a black judgment. “People will always remember this judgment as black and controversial. We will fight in higher courts to reverse this judgment. The timing of the judgment is an attempt to influence the upcoming elections,” he said at a press conference in Lahore. He said Mr. Nawaz Sharif had served the country three times as Prime Minister and what he got in return was a black judgment.
Imran Khan welcomes the ruling
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan welcomed the court ruling and termed it a historic judgment, which would serve as a deterrent to corruption in the country. “Sharif brothers [indulged in] corruption for decades and destroyed the institutions. For the first time, a powerful person has been sentenced, which is unprecedented,” he said at a rally in Swat.