LAHORE Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been sentenced to 10 years in jail and handed 10.5 million pound fine over corruption charges related to his family’s purchase of overseas properties, dealing a blow to his party’s prospects ahead of a general elections which are only 20 days away.
Sharif’s 44-year-old daughter and co-accused Maryam was given seven years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of two million pounds, while her husband Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar was jailed for one year for not cooperating with the anti-graft authorities.
Prosecution lawyer Muzaffar Abbas also said that the court had ordered the properties, in London’s exclusive Mayfair, be confiscated by the federal government.
The sons, Hasan and Hussain Nawaz, also accused in the case, are “absconding therefore, they are declared as proclaimed offenders. Non bailable perpetual warrants of arrest shall be issued against them.
Sharif, 68, is currently in London attending to his wife Kulsoom Nawaz who was diagnosed with throat cancer last year.
The accountability court issued a 176-page verdict against the disqualified premier and his family over corruption claims linked to the 2015 Panama papers, forcing his political party to rethink its strategy for general elections scheduled to be held on July 25.
Exit polls have already predicted a hung National Assembly with a close race between Sharifs’ PML-N and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Sharif had already been disqualified last year to contest these elections, and his brother Shehbaz Sharif is now leading the party to the polls.
Fridays verdict marked a further fall for Nawaz Sharif, who has been Pakistans prime minister three times but never completed a term.
Zahid Hussain, a political observer based in Islamabad, said that the verdict would mark “the end of the Sharif political dynasty.” Before his political demise, Sharif had been at the helm of Pakistan’s turbulent politics for more than three decades.
“This is the first time a former prime minister has been convicted on corruption charges in Pakistani history.”
“This is the end of Mariam Nawaz’s career before it even started,” he added.
Hussain also expects huge ramifications in the political landscape ahead of the election. “The verdict has changed the political dynamics in Pakistan completely,” he said. “There is already demoralization amongst the PMLN candidates and early polls have shown that the PMLN has been losing ground to their main opponent, the PTI, Imran Khan’s party.
From the start of Sharifs legal troubles in 2016, his supporters have accused the countrys powerful military establishment of pressing the case against Sharif, whose first term ended in resignation under military pressure and whose second was cut short by an army coup.
Sharif family has denied any wrongdoing in the corruption case. But in the ruling that ousted Sharif from office last year, the Supreme Court concluded that he and his family members could not adequately explain how they were able to afford the expensive London apartments and that they failed to provide a money trail.
Now, the verdict and sentence, announced by Muhammad Bashir, a justice on the accountability court in Islamabad, could see them imprisoned. But at least on Friday, it appeared unlikely that either Sharif or his daughter would appear in Pakistan to go to jail.
Members of the Sharif family had said before the verdict that they would appeal any convictions, but they are unlikely to get relief from the higher courts.
The conviction also bars Maryam from contesting the July 25 elections, in a blow to Sharifs ambitions for his daughter to play a leading role in national and party politics.
According to the verdict, Maryam “aided, assisted, abetted, attempted and acted in conspiracy with her father”. “The trust deeds produced by the accused Maryam Nawaz were also found bogus,” read the judgement.
Safdar, the son-in-law, who is in Pakistan decided not to be present in the court when the verdict was announced.
Sharif and his daughter have said that they are not afraid to go to jail, but it remains to be seen whether they will return to Pakistan before the elections. Political opponents have already said that the Sharif family is in an unannounced exile.
Sharif was ordered by the Supreme Court to step down from the Prime Minister’s office in July 2017 following a government probe into his family’s wealth after publication of the Panama Papers.
The court ruled that Sharif had been dishonest to Parliament and to the judicial system and was no longer fit for office.
Sharif was not named in the Panama Papers, but his three children were linked in the documents to offshore companies.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) later found that Sharif had acquired four apartments in Avenfield House, a luxury apartment block close to Hyde Park in London. It is those properties that are due to be confiscated, according to the verdict.
Several other senior figures in the party have also been barred by courts from running in the July 25 elections. Others have defected to other parties or simply left, though the PML-N leadership says that those desertions have come under pressure from the military.
Rise and fall of Nawaz Sharif: A Timeline
Here are some of the highlights of Sharifs career:
- 1949 – Nawaz Sharif is born into a Kashmiri family of industrialists in the eastern city of Lahore. He later graduates with a law degree from Punjab University and goes to work in the family steel business
- 1976 – Enters politics, joining the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) after the Sharif family steel business was nationalised under the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the beginning of a long political rivalry between the families.
- 1981 – Joins the Punjab provincial cabinet as finance minister, becoming Punjabs chief minister in 1985. The PML later split and Nawaz formed the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
- 1990 – First elected prime minister.
- 1993 – Removed as prime minister by Pakistans president.
He is reinstated by Supreme Court but then resigns under pressure and his party loses elections to the Pakistan Peoples Party of Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfiqar Bhutto.
- 1997- Elected prime minister for second time. During his term, Pakistan successfully tests nuclear weapons in response to regional rival Indias atomic programme.
- 1999 – Overthrown in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf, the countrys fourth army takeover since independence in 1947. After the coup, he was convicted of corruption and given a life sentence for hijacking over an incident when he ordered Musharrafs plane not to land in Islamabad.
- 2000-2007 – Allowed to go into exile in Saudi Arabia in 2000 amid reports of a deal with the military, he was given a presidential pardon the day his family left.
- 2007 – Returns from exile to contest elections the next year as part of a political deal that ended Musharrafs military rule.
- 2008 – Loses election to the party of Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated ahead of the polls.
- 2013 – Elected prime minister for third time. The PML-N sweeps back to power in an election the gives its allies a solid National Assembly majority.
- April 4, 2016 – The leaked Panama Papers show involvement of Sharifs family in offshore companies including two used to buy luxury homes in London.
- Oct. 28, 2016 – Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan threatens to paralyse the capital, Islamabad, with a lockdown of street protests unless demands for an independent investigation into the Panama revelations are met. Sharif denies any wrongdoing.
- Nov. 2, 2016 – Supreme Court agrees to set up a judicial commission to probe corruption allegations against Sharif, stemming from Panama Papers leaks. Khan backs down from lockdown threat.
- July 28, 2017 – Supreme Court declares Sharif disqualified from office for not declaring income from a company in United Arab Emirates, which was not in original Panama Papers revelations. The court also orders the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to open a criminal trial into ownership of the London flats along with several other Panama Papers revelations.
- April 13, 2018 – The Supreme Court further rules Sharif is banned from political office for life.
- July 6, 2018 – The NAB court convicts Sharif of corruption and sentences him in absentia to 10 years in prison.
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