Pakistan court convicts former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in corruption case
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was found guilty of corruption Friday and sentenced to 10 years in prison, while his daughter Maryam Nawaz received a seven-year jail term in the same case. Both are in London but have said they will return home to face justice.
Sharif, 68, was ousted as prime minister and barred from holding political office by Pakistan’s supreme court in April 2017. The ruling followed many hearings on charges by his political opponents that he and his family had illegally hidden their wealth in overseas business and real estate deals.
The ruling by the National Accountability Court was the latest in a long series of blows to Sharif, the country’s once-popular leader and three-time premier. The tumult has thrown his long-ruling political party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, into disarray and division with national parliamentary elections less than three weeks away.
Commentators said the party, which has no other charismatic leader, will have difficulty winning enough seats to form a government and is likely to wind up in a weak coalition that will face challenges from both the powerful security establishment and rising religiously-based parties.
The trial of Sharif and his 44-year-old daughter was an outgrowth of the original corruption case related to the financing of apartments in London and other overseas properties owned by members of the family, one of Pakistan’s political dynasties. The accountability court also sentenced Nawaz’s husband, Muhammad Safdar, to a one-year term.
The court ruled that all three family members had been involved in the ownership of four apartments in an upscale London district known as the Avenfield Flats. The Sharif family insisted the apartments were purchased through legitimate financial resources, but prosecutors said they had been unable or unwilling to produce proof of those claims to the court.
Shortly after the midafternoon ruling, Sharif’s brother Shabbaz Sharif, who is chief minister of Punjab province and a key party leader, rejected the verdict and said both legal actions and peaceful protests would be taken to challenge it. Speaking at a news conference in Lahore, he said his brother had every intention of returning home and would not go into ‘‘self-exile,’’ as some supporters as well as critics have suggested he might.
Sharif and his daughter have been in London since June, where his wife, Kulsum, remains hospitalized with a serious illness after many months. Maryam Nawaz, known for her dramatic tweets and fierce loyalty to her father and party, tweeted Friday afternoon that ‘‘the real decision will be made on July 25,’’ when Pakistanis go to the polls.
But the National Election Commission has barred her from running for parliament and said her name would be removed from the ballot. Shabbaz Sharif is also running for a seat and has not been charged with any crime that would disqualify him.