Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau court delivered a verdict sentencing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to ten years in prison and fining him eight million pounds. His daughter Mariam Safdar and her husband were also implicated. The family was accused of illegally acquiring wealth through their offshore companies in order to purchase expensive properties in London.
Mr. Sharif has been prime minister three times—the first ended in his resigning due to military pressure and the second ended with an army coup. The third culminated a year ago when the Pakistani Supreme Court removed him from office. Five months ago, the court barred him from holding public office for the rest of his life.
The information that led to the conviction stemmed from the Panama Papers leak, and first reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The Sharifs were long suspected of corruption, tax avoidance, money laundering, and ownership of illegal assets. The Supreme Court concluded that the family was unable to adequately explain the sources of wealth that allowed them to purchase their London flats, while Mr. Sharif continues to claim that these purchases were made in a legitimate manner.
Many believe that the military, which has been grappling for power with Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Party (PML-N), had a hand in this through its pressuring of the media and petitioning of the court. Taha Siddiqui, a journalist that had been a target of such military pressures, stated the following in a Twitter post:
A silent coup has taken place, far softer and subtler than any previous coups. As a result of that coup, there is a civilian govt but without powers; there is media but without freedoms; there are election candidates without freedom to choose a political platform.
Foreign policy analyst Ahmed Rasheed said that despite being corrupt, he did not believe that the PML-N deserve this kind of election harassment.
Mr. Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, is now leading the PML-N as well as running in the upcoming elections. Mr. Sharif himself and his daughter Mariam are currently in London tending to his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif, who is sick with cancer. While he said he would return to Pakistan to serve his sentence, when he plans to do so is unknown.