Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif gets 10-year jail term for corruption

Updated on Jul 06, 2018 10:17 PM IST

Former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif , his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were sentenced to prison for corruption in the Avenfield case.

Ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif convicted in Avenfield curroption case.(AFP)
Ousted Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif convicted in Avenfield curroption case.(AFP)
Islamabad | ByImtiaz Ahmad

A Pakistani court on Friday found ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif guilty of corruption and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, a major blow for his PML-N party ahead of general elections on July 25.

The accountability or anti-graft court ruled there were corrupt practices linked to the Sharif family’s acquisition of four apartments in the posh Park Lane area of London in the 1990s. The verdict threatens to end the career of 68-year-old Sharif, a political survivor who couldn’t complete any of his three terms as prime minister.

Besides Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, widely seen as his political heir, was given a seven-year sentence while her husband, Muhammad Safdar, a former army officer, was sentenced to a year in jail in the Avenfield apartments case.

The court ordered Sharif to pay a fine of £8 million pounds ($10.6 million) and fined Maryam £2 million pounds, while ordering the confiscation of the London flats on behalf of the Pakistan government.

Sharif and his daughter are in London, where his wife Kulsoom Nawaz is being treated for cancer and is in a coma after suffering a heart attack. Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, an ally of Sharif, said the former prime minister would return to Pakistan to file an appeal, facing arrest on arrival before the polls, in which the PML-N is in a close race with Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf party.

Judge Muhammad Bashir read out the 100-page verdict at 4.20pm after repeated delays that kept the country on edge. Sharif requested a seven-day exemption, saying he wanted to be in court for the judgment, but his plea was dismissed.

The prosecution contended Sharif and his family had failed to prove a legal source of income for purchasing the flats between 1993 and 1996. Sharif has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said the flats were acquired by his sons Hussain and Hasan while settling a business deal with a Qatari prince.

“Today’s verdict shows that these Avenfield apartments were purchased using corruption money,” prosecution lawyer Sardar Abbasi told reporters. Sharif would be arrested on arrival under the law, though he could be freed by a separate court if he appealed, Abbasi added.

Sharif’s brother Shehbaz Sharif rejected the verdict, saying voters would exonerate the family on July 25. “Pakistani people and PML-N reject this verdict…This will be remembered as a black day in history,” Shehbaz said minutes after the verdict was pronounced. The PML-N will challenge the ruling in the high court and, if needed, the Supreme Court, he added.

Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court in July 2017 and later barred from politics for being “dishonest” by failing to report a monthly income of 10,000 Emirati dirhams ($2,723) from a firm owned by his son. He said he never drew the salary.

The verdict came against the backdrop of growing suspicion about the military and the judiciary meddling in politics ahead of the general elections, as well as media complaints of being muzzled. Sharif has confronted the military in recent years though his political career was initially nurtured by military ruler Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

Shortly after his third term began in 2013, he fell out with the generals because he challenged the military’s stranglehold on foreign policy and took steps to prosecute former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

Sharif has accused the military of working with top judges to use cases against him and PML-N leaders to tip the scales in favour of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

Khan, who has denied colluding with the military, played a key role in pushing corruption cases based on revelations in the Panama Papers about offshore companies allegedly linked to the Sharif family being used to buy the London apartments.

“I thank God that for the first time in history a powerful (person) has been sentenced by the justice system in Pakistan,” Khan told a rally after the verdict.

At the time of Sharif’s ouster from office, the Supreme Court had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to register corruption cases against members of the Sharif family.

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