Ex-Premier Sharif gets 10-year jail term in Pakistan

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in jail in a corruption case verdict announced in capital Islamabad Friday that immediately saw an outcry of injustice by his party supporters.

The anti-corruption court in capital Islamabad also imposed a fine of 8 million pounds ($10.58 million) on Sharif.

The three-time premier, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar were all found guilty of buying four apartments at Avenfield House in London's posh Park Lane area in 1993 allegedly through illegal means.

Maryam and her husband Safdar were sentenced to seven years and one year in jail, respectively. Both were also disqualified from contesting the upcoming elections.

The court also ordered the confiscation of the four apartments in London, and imposed a fine of 2 million pounds ($2.65 million) on Maryam, prosecution lawyer Sardar Muzzafer Abbasi told reporters in Islamabad.

Last July, 68-year-old Sharif was barred from holding public office by the Supreme Court over the whistleblower Panama Papers scandal, which also led to the filing of three corruption cases, including the Avenfield properties case against him and his family. Not long after, the top court also barred him from holding the leadership of his political party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

The accountability court judge gave its verdict after a 107-day hearing of the case that had gripped the nation. It sentenced Maryam Nawaz to another year in jail for misleading the court by submitting a forged sale deed.

The convicts will have a chance to challenge the verdict in the high court within seven days, and later in the Supreme Court.

Currently, former premier Nawaz Sharif is in London with his ailing wife Begum Kalsoom Nawaz, who is battling cancer. Maryam Nawaz is also with them.

After the verdict, Maryam Nawaz tweeted: "Well done, Nawaz Sharif, you were not intimidated, you did not bow. The people of Pakistan are with you".

Sharif's party rejects verdict

Nawaz Sharif's sons Hassan and Hussain, both accused in the Avenfield case, had been declared absconders by the same court for skipping the hearings in the case; the sons claim Pakistani laws do not apply to them since they are British nationals.

Earlier in the day, the court rejected Nawaz Sharif's appeal for postponement of the judgment for a week and denied his request to allow him to hear the verdict in person.

The PML-N rejected the court judgment.

In a news conference in London, Nawaz Sharif, in a thinly-veiled reference to the country's powerful military, said: "This conviction is not from the court, it has been handed down by someone else."

He said he would return to Pakistan soon along with Maryam Nawaz as soon as his wife feels better.

This is a judgment that will be written in black words in history," Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif and president of PML-N, told a news conference in southeastern Lahore city.

This judgment is based on injustice. There was no proof at all against Nawaz Sharif. We completely reject it.

"Nawaz Sharif has always faced the injustice and hardships with courage and determination. And he will do the same this time as well, he said.

The people of Pakistan will reject this judgment in the forthcoming elections, he said.

PML-N workers also held demonstrations in several cities, mainly in Punjab province against the judgment.

"We do not accept the rule of injustice", "Long Live Nawaz Sharif" and "We are with Nawaz Sharif" were some slogans raised by the emotional party workers after the verdict.

The government had deployed additional police in Islamabad, Lahore, and other cities of the Punjab provincea PML-N stronghold in anticipation of protests against the judgment. No major violence was reported from any part of the country.

Sympathy wave for Nawaz?

Political analysts see the judgment as a major blow to Sharif's PML-N, which is already facing a tough contest with opposition parties, especially Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) led by former cricket hero Imran Khan.

Some others, however, reckon that Sharif could ride on a sympathy wave if he returns to the country before the elections slated to be held on July 25.

Opposition leader Khursheed Shah, who belongs to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), termed the timing of the court judgment "wrong".

"This judgment should have been announced three months ago. The judgment has been given when the elections are around the corner.

It will benefit Nawaz Sharif in the elections, Shah was quoted as saying by Geo TV.

More cases are pending against the former premier.

Along with his daughter and other family members, Nawaz Sharif, whose party came to power in a landslide victory in the 2013 general election, is also on trial for two other corruption cases, which, he claims, had been cooked up and were aimed at ousting him and his party from politics.

In April 2016, Nawaz Sharif's eldest son, Hussain Nawaz, admitted in an interview with a local Pakistani channel that his family owned the offshore companies and the apartments in London.

Sharif insisted the transactions were all legal, but was unable to provide the money trail for the purchase deal in the top court and the anti-corruption court. Instead, he distanced himself from his sons claiming he had nothing to do with the purchase of the apartments.

Nawaz Sharif, who served as the premier from 1990 to 1992, 1997 to 1999, and 2013 to 2017, could not complete even a single five-year term. His two previous governments were dismissed over corruption charges and through a bloodless military coup in 1992 and 1999, respectively.

Source: Anadolu Agency