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The accountability court, in a momentous decision on Friday, sentenced deposed premier Nawaz Sharif to 10 years and Maryam Nawaz to seven years in the Avenfield corruption reference.
Capt (retd) Safdar also sentenced to one year in jail.
With all eyes on the court, Judge Muhammad Bashir of the accountability court read out the 100-page verdict. The historic decision was to be announced earlier, but after multiple delays, the court announced the verdict in the presence of media personnel at 4:20.
The former prime minister and his daughter were not present in the country citing Begum Kulsoom’s ill-health and Nawaz’s son-in-law Safdar was missing from court. The father-daughter duo had requested for a seven-day exemption, stating that they want to be in court when the judgment is announced. However, the plea was dismissed and the verdict was announced in their absence.
Nawaz’s counsel, Khawaja Haris and Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz were both present.
Following the directives of the Supreme Court, Judge Bashir’s accountability court had started hearing the case based on the references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in September.
NAB had registered three references against members of the Sharif family; Avenfield properties, Al-Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investment. While the court had ordered the trial to be complete in six months [March, 2017], the apex court had extended the trial by four months.
Nawaz, daughter Maryam and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar were indicted in the Avenfield properties case in October 2017. Maryam, Nawaz and Safdar have attended over 80 hearings throughout the proceedings, taking multiple exemptions to visit the ailing Begum Kulsoom in London.
Haris had filed numerous pleas and petitions on the behalf of the former to club the references or to club the verdict, however, much to their dismay, the accountability court rejected all. Haris even moved the top court and Islamabad High Court against the dismissals but to no avail. Frustrated with the deadlines, Haris had withdrawn himself from the case on June 11 and returned days later. Haris said he distanced himself from the case because the defense’s case was being weakened by the rushed proceeding.
Panama Papers leads to disqualification
In 2016, data leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca and gathered by the ICJ [International Consortium of Journalism] showed that then-premier Nawaz and sons owned multiple off-shore companies and assets. The revelation led to severe backlash from opposing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Awami Muslim League. Chiefs of both parties; Imran Khan and Sheikh Rasheed, submitted petitions in the SC against Nawaz’s assets claiming that none of them were declared in the 2013 general elections.
In July 2017, in a historic verdict, the SC disqualified Nawaz from holding public office as PM, leading him to resign from his position immediately. Contrary to the corruption allegations, the disqualification was on the basis of his Iqama [work permit], and for not declaring his salary as asset of employment at Capital FZE, a company owned by his son.
The SC further directed the country’s anti-graft body to file references against the Sharif family to probe the allegations levelled against them. A six-member Joint Investigation Team [JIT] was formed to investigate with former director of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Wajid Zia as the head.
The team conducted a two-month probe, gathering documents and evidence from the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Pakistan. After admitting the report in the SC, the disqualification verdict was passed.