Paying the Price of Reforming Pak: Nawaz Sharif on 10-Yr Jail Term
Ousted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. 
Ousted Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (Photo: Reuters)

Paying the Price of Reforming Pak: Nawaz Sharif on 10-Yr Jail Term

An accountability court in Pakistan on Friday, 6 July sentenced ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in prison in one of the three corruption cases against him in the high-profile Panama Papers scandal.

The Islamabad Accountability Court sentenced 68-year-old Sharif to 10 years in jail for owning assets beyond income and one year for not cooperating with the anti-corruption authority, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The sentences will run concurrently which means the former prime minister will serve 10 years in jail.

Sharif's 44-year-old daughter and co-accused Maryam was given seven years for abetment, and one year for non-cooperation with the NAB — also to run concurrently. Considered to be Sharif's political heir, Maryam will serve seven years in total.

Sharif's son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar was jailed for one year rigorous imprisonment for not cooperating with the NAB.

Amid tight security, the Judge Muhammad Bashir of the accountability court read out the 174-page verdict after postponing it for five times during the day in the Avenfield corruption case – pertaining to the ownership of four flats in the posh Avenfield House in London.

The National Accountability Bureau had filed the case, along with two others, on the Supreme Court's directives in the landmark Panamagate verdict last year which disqualified Sharif, the three-time prime minister.

Where Are Sharif and Maryam?

Sharif is currently in London attending to his wife Kulsoom Nawaz who was diagnosed with throat cancer last year.

Sharif's daughter Maryam and his two sons – Hassan and Hussain – are in London, while Safdar is in Pakistan, but was not present in court.

Both Hassan and Hussain have been declared as absconders by the court.

The NAB will now wait for a certain time period for all three convicts to surrender. If they fail to do so, the NAB will initiate the procedure to bring Maryam and Nawaz back, and arrest Safdar, Dawn newspaper reported.

What Happens to 25 July Elections Now?

The ruling came weeks before the general elections in Pakistan on 25 July and analysts say it could adversely hit the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the party headed by Sharif.

After the verdict, Maryam and Safdar were disqualified from contesting elections.

Sharif resigned as Pakistan prime minister last year after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office and ruled that graft cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal.

After the conviction, it was not sure if Sharif and Maryam would come back to face rigorous imprisonment.

Analysts believe that if they return, it might boost the chances of good showing in elections by the PML-N due to sympathy vote.

Can the Accused Appeal Against the Verdict?

NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said the accused have 10 days to file an appeal against the verdict.

Earlier, judge Bashir had rejected the application of the Sharif family seeking a seven-day postponement in announcement of the verdict.

The court also ordered confiscation of the four Avenfield apartments. The fine money will go into the state treasury.

Abbasi said the verdict showed that Avenfield apartments were purchased with corruption money and were in ownership of Sharif family since 1993.

Punished Because I Tried to Reform Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif

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 freed of the chains that they are kept in for saying the truth," a defiant Sharif told reporters in London.

"I will continue my struggle till the people of Pakistan not freed of the slavery imposed on them by some generals and judges," he added.

The PML-N President and Nawaz Sharif's brother, Shehbaz Sharif also rejected the convictions calling them “unjust and politically motivated”.

According to Hindustan Times, Sharif said, “If the price of stopping the theft of the vote is chains, handcuffs and jail, I am coming back to pay this price. I am coming back to join you to stop those those who are stealing your vote, your independence and your prosperity.”

Sharif Used Wife’s Illness For Emotional Blackmail: Imran Khan

Sharif's nemesis Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said even before the verdict that Sharif would be sent to jail for corruption. He accused Sharif of using the illness of his wife Kulsoom as "emotional blackmail".

"Sharif did not remember his wife while she was under treatment in London and he was holding public meetings across the country," the cricketer-turned-politician said.

Defiant Maryam Says 'Real Verdict' Will be Revealed on 25 July

Maryam Nawaz said attempts were being made to stop her father and deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from returning to Pakistan and appealed to party cadres to be positive ahead of the 25 July elections.

In a tweet, she stated that "It is a matter of happiness for the Pakistani people, for whom, a leader is willing to take an undeterred stand and willing to preserve the sanctity of the voting system".

She further reiterated that the real verdict shall be revealed to the public on 25 July, the day when general elections shall be held in the country.

"This isn't new for Nawaz Sharif. He has undergone disqualification and life imprisonment before," she said in a tweet.

Maryam took to Twitter to state that "forces" have never been successful in breaking Sharif's resolve in the face of adversity.

“PML-N’s lions, remember this! Do not get unsettled no matter what the verdict is. All of this is not new for your Nawaz Sharif, he has faced exile, disqualification, and life imprisonment (sentence) in the past.”
Maryam Nawaz

She further said that it was positive that there is one political leader who is steadfast in his resolve to protect the sanctity of the vote.

The Trial

The NAB had registered three cases of corruption and money laundering against Sharif, his family members and former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in the Islamabad Accountability Court.

During the 9-month trial, the NAB presented around 21 witnessed to prove that Sharif family cannot justify the money trail to buy four apartments in Avenfield House, Park Lane, London.

It is alleged that the properties were allegedly bought with graft money in 1990s when he served twice as the prime minister. Sharif rejected any wrongdoing and insisted they were bought with the legitimate money.

According to Pakistani media reports, Sharif and Maryam were in their apartment in the Avenfield building in London when the verdict was announced.

(With PTI inputs)

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