Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will return to the country after he was convicted on charges of corruption in a judgment that will likely dent the former ruling party’s prospects ahead of national elections this month.
An anti-corruption court handed down a 10-year jail sentence and an $10.6 million fine against Sharif, 68. His daughter Maryam and her husband Muhammad Safdar also received a 7-year and 1-year sentence respectively. Sharif and his children have been in the UK since June attending to his ailing wife who is receiving cancer treatment. Sharif told reporters in London he would return to Pakistan without specifying a date. People familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified, said he will return before Wednesday.
The court also ordered the seizure of the family’s London apartments that were at the heart of the case. Sharif will appeal the ruling, said Munawar Duggal, his lawyer. “Sharif and others can challenge it in the high court and for that they have to be present in the court,” he told reporters in Islamabad, the capital. An appeal has to be filed within 10 days.
The verdict is the conclusion of a two-year corruption scandal that engulfed Pakistani politics. The former premier was disqualified from the top job by the Supreme Court last July, his third ousting since the 1990s. This year the court also barred him from politics.
It came after an anti-corruption campaign led by former cricket star and opposition leader Imran Khan, who stands to benefit from Sharif’s conviction. Sharif and his family
have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Despite the corruption allegations, Sharif continued to hold rallies across the country and his image is front and center of his party’s campaign posters ahead of the July 25 vote. He has criticised the judiciary’s handling of his case and has said the nation’s powerful military has conspired to manipulate the vote against him. The six-man Supreme Court-mandated investigative team that brought about Sharif’s latest downfall included two active members of the military’s intelligence arms.
Sharif, who hails from a prominent industrialist family, became involved in politics in the late 1970s under the hard-line military dictatorship of General Zia ul-Haq. Like many Pakistani leaders he has rotated in and out of power and favour of the so-called military establishment and under the cloud of multiple jailings, exile and graft charges.
He has continued to dominate the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and has created a political dynasty that many speculated would have been passed down to Maryam.