Pakistan's former Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is set to return to Pakistan from the United Kingdom (U.K.) after a Pakistani Accountability Court has sentenced him to ten years in prison for impropriety in the ownership of certain properties in the U.K.
Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz announced in London, England that she and her father will return to Islamabad, Pakistan on July 13, 2018, just a few weeks before Pakistan's general elections on July 25. They plan to file an appeal against the corruption verdict announced on Friday, July 6.
Sharif and his daughter had been in London tending to Sharif's wife Kulsoom Nawaz who is currently receiving cancer treatment and is in a coma.
In a case known as the Avenfield Reference Verdict tried under Pakistan's anti-corruption focused agency, the National Accountability Bureau, Sharif was accused of buying apartments in London by illegally siphoning money from Pakistan. He was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison with a fine of 8 million British Pounds, GBP (1.3 billion Pakistan Rupees, PKR).
His daughter Maryam was sentenced to eight years with a fine of 2 million GBP (335 million PKR). Additionally, her husband Captain (Rtd) Safdar received a one-year prison sentence.
Safdar surrendered at the National Accountability Bureau in Islamabad on July 9:
Captain Safdar finally arrested from Rawalpindi while Imran Khan addresses a rally in Haripur warning Nawaz Sharif that he must not pretend to be Nelson Mandela. Nawaz Sharif & @MaryamNSharif determined to return to face arrest. A cloud of doom hangs over this election.
— Munizae Jahangir (@MunizaeJahangir) July 8, 2018
Journalist Mohammad Taqi suggests that the case against Sharif was a way for the Supreme Court of Pakistan to “stack the legal deck against [him]” by linking the verdict with the Panama Papers scandal, in which “his children were named in the leaked information.” Taqi explains:
The present case was a lucky break for the army aided by the release of the so-called Panama Papers. The former PM’s children were named in the leaked information for holding off-shore companies to manage their businesses and properties, but he himself wasn’t mentioned. The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP), shelving the due process, turned itself into a trial court and took up the Panama Papers against Sharif.
Despite its aggressive witch-hunt, the SCP did not find any evidence of wrong-doing but nailed Sharif nonetheless on a flimsy charge of not declaring a potential income. However, what the SCP – acting in all probability on a nod from the army—had done was to stack the legal deck against Sharif. A year ago, the SCP had declared him guilty of being dishonest and therefore unable to hold a public office.
Following the Supreme Court verdict in July 2017, Sharif was forced to vacate the prime minister's office. Maryam and Safdar have been disqualified from the upcoming general elections in July 2018.
Applause or critique for the verdict?
Many see the Sharif family's recent trial and verdict as a political move to deter them from contesting in the upcoming election. The Sharifs are members of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) and many expected daughter Maryam Sharif to follow in her father's footsteps:
— Raza Zaidi (@Razaazaidi) July 6, 2018
Former president SC Bar Association, Ali Ahmad Kurd says, everyone knows how NS was ousted, and sentenced with @MaryamNSharif the Designers in Establishment must stop playing with the fate of nation, if the election is turned into selection, people won’t accept. @Dawn_News https://t.co/DqzJGvjOt7
— umar zaman (@umarzaman45) July 10, 2018
PML-N picks replacement election candidates for Maryam Nawaz https://t.co/3EL5O9E97O
— Twanya (@twanya) July 10, 2018
Meanwhile, four Avenfield Apartments in London were confiscated by the Federal Government of Pakistan. Supporters of the rival political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) gathered outside Avenfield in support of the verdict.
Social media activist Hamza Khan tweeted:
— Hamza Khan (@HamzaAminPTI) July 7, 2018
PTI supporters allegedly tried to break into Sharif's London flats. Journalist Murtaza Ali Shah tweeted:
Footage shows attempt being made by PTI activists to break the entrance of Hasan nawaz Sharif’s flat. Metropolitan police sources says police has obtained footage of the attackers and will take action for attempted assault and damage to property #AvenfieldApartments pic.twitter.com/XnBsXSBNHv
— Murtaza Ali Shah (@MurtazaViews) July 8, 2018
The National Accountability Bureau plans to arrest the Sharifs upon arrival at the airport.
However, PML-N supporters announced their plans to welcome their leader in Islamabad. Security is on high alert. PML-N continue their election campaigns across the country with determination.
The verdict is being celebrated by some as a step toward a corruption-free country. Politician, Dr. Tahir ul Qadri tweeted:
Judgment of Ehtesab Court is first drop of rain, soon there will be heavy rain followed by hailstorm. This judgment is major development in war against corruption, and every corrupt must be brought to the book who has robbed the country۔#AvenfieldReference
— Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri (@TahirulQadri) July 7, 2018
Actor and activist Hamza Ali Abbassi sees the verdict as a proud moment for Pakistan:
Insha Allah these headlines will soon make us more proud as Pakistanis: Ex Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif jailed for corruption!
— Hamza Ali Abbasi (@iamhamzaabbasi) July 5, 2018
Yet, PML-N political workers motivated people to support their party against the verdict. PML-N worker Imran Khalid Butt tweeted:
— Imran Khalid Butt (@ImranKButt) July 8, 2018
Corruption in Pakistan:
According to the Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International (TI), Pakistan is ranked number 116 of 176 countries included in 2016, indicating high levels of corruption in the country.
The Sharifs are the first to be convicted under the accountability laws of Pakistan.
The Avenfield Reference was one of the three corruption references filed against the family after the conviction and removal of Nawaz Sharif from the office of the prime minister in July. Two other cases are still on trial in Pakistan's accountability courts.
Former Pakistani president and army general Pervez Musharraf has also been called to the courts over corruption charges.