Ousted Pakistani PM Sharif gets 10-year jail term ahead of polls
A Pakistani court on Friday sentenced ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in prison for corrupt practices linked to his family’s purchase of upscale London flats, in a major blow to his party ahead of general elections on July 25.
The guilty verdict in absentia against Sharif, 68, threatens to end the career of one of Pakistan’s most high-profile politicians of the last four decades, a political survivor who was prime minister three times.
Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, widely seen as his chosen political heir, was sentenced to seven years in prison and is disqualified from contesting the elections. Maryam’s husband and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Muhammad Safdar was handed a year in jail.
“Today’s verdict shows that these Avenfield apartments were purchased using corruption money,” prosecution lawyer Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi told reporters, citing the name of the apartment building in London.
Without setting a date, Sharif said he would return to Pakistan from London where he is tending to his wife, Kulsoom, who is being treated for cancer and is in a coma after suffering a heart attack last month.
“As soon as she gains consciousness, and I talk to her, I will go back,” Sharif told media in London. “I will continue my struggle even in the jail.”
Sharif would face arrest on arrival in Pakistan just before the election, in which his party is in a tight race with opposition figure Imran Khan’s party.
Both Sharif and his daughter Maryam, who is also currently in London, denied wrongdoing and will appeal the decision, said Sharif ally Tariq Fazal Chaudhry.
“The people of Pakistan and PML-N reject this decision,” said Sharif’s brother Shehbaz, who took over as PML-N president after his brother was banned from holding office for life. Shehbaz is expected to be its prime ministerial candidate.
“This decision is based on injustice.”
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) 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 properties on behalf of the Pakistani government, Abbasi said.
Source: Reuters, The Dawn Abdullah The Kootneeti South Asia Team
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