Nawaz gets prison in absentia ahead of polls

Islamabad, Jul 6: Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in prison and slapped a £8 million fine in the Avenfield properties reference on Friday while his daughter Maryam was sentenced to seven years with a £2 million fine, according to a Geo TV report.
Nawaz’s son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar was given a one year sentence.
Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir announced the verdict on Friday after several delays since morning.
Moreover, the court also sentenced Maryam to one year in prison for submitting false documents in court.
The court has also ruled that the Avenfield apartments of the Sharif family, in their possession since 1993, shall be seized by the federal government.
The Avenfield properties reference was one of three filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last year in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict against Nawaz in the Panama Papers case. The reference pertains to the ownership of the Sharif family’s apartments at Avenfield House, London.
Following the verdict, Maryam and Safdar stand barred from contesting the July general election from Lahore and Mansehra, respectively.
Following the verdict, the Election Commission of Pakistan stated that Maryam’s name will be removed from the ballot papers of the NA-127 constituency.
Moreover, after the hearing, NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said the accused have 10 days to file an appeal against the verdict.
All eyes were set on the accountability court hearing the high-profile corruption cases against the former prime minister and his family. Strict security arrangements, including paramilitary personnel, were in place at the Federal Judicial Complex, where the court is located. The roads leading to the complex were also closed to traffic.
The district administration had imposed Section 144 in the capital to discourage mass gatherings.
As the hearing went under way today, Judge Bashir heard Sharifs’ request, submitted on Thursday, requesting the trial court to postpone the verdict till he is back in the country next week.
After submitting Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s medical report, Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervez argued the law stipulates the presence of the accused when the verdict is read out. After the prosecution opposed any delay at such a late stage of the trial, the judge reserved his verdict and adjourned the hearing for an hour.
Later, the court dismissed Sharifs’ plea and set 12:30pm as the time for announcing the verdict. However, that deadline was later extended thrice – 2:30pm, 3pm and 3:30pm – before it was finally read out after 4pm.
The judge had called lawyers of both sides inside his chambers and disallowed the media. He then stated that the media will be called in when the judgment is being read out.
Earlier, the judge, present inside his chamber, had issued the delay notices through the court staff but the 3:30 pm deadline was informed of by the judge himself. He explained that they have to make an appropriate number of photocopies of the judgment for distribution to the relevant parties.
Prior to the verdict, Maryam took to Twitter, urging the “PML-N’s lions” not to get unsettled no matter what the verdict.
“All of this is not new for your Nawaz Sharif, he has faced exile, disqualification, and life imprisonment [sentence] in the past,” she said further in the series of tweets. (UNI)