Pakistan’s deposed premier Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam on Saturday said she and her father would return to Pakistan before the expiry of the 10-day deadline given by an an anti-graft court to file an appeal against their sentence in a corruption case.
The Islamabad Accountability Court on Friday sentenced 68-year-old Sharif to 10 years in jail for owning assets beyond income and one year for not cooperating with the anti-corruption authority, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in one of the three corruption cases against him in the Panama Papers scandal.
Maryam, considered to be Sharif’s political heir, was given seven years for abetment, and one year for non-cooperation with the NAB. When reporters in London today asked Maryam whether she had been informed by her lawyers that they need to surrender themselves within 10 days to get any sort of relief, she said: “We will go back before that (10 days) anyway.” She was talking to reporters regarding the Sharifs’ conviction in Avenfield properties case.
She also claimed that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is aware that the Avenfield properties cannot be confiscated since no law had been broken in Britain, the Dawn reported. She said that even then if the authorities in Britain are moved, it would work in the Sharifs’ favour as investigations would make things clear. Sharif had already said that he would return to Pakistan once his wife, Begum Kulsoom, who is on a ventilator in a London hospital regains consciousness.
Sharif said that he has been sent to jail because he tried to free the people of Pakistan from the slavery imposed on them by some generals and judges and vowed to continue his political struggle from behind the bars. Meanwhile, the PML-N fielded Malik Irfan Shafi Khokhar in PP-173 and Ali Pervaiz from NA-127 to contest the 2018 elections in place of Maryam after her conviction led to her disqualification.
Ali is a son of PML-N Lahore president and former MNA Pervaiz Malik. Ali had filed nomination papers in this constituency as a covering candidate and had not withdrawn these. A senior PML-N leader said that since the court had barred Maryam from contesting election for 10 years the party had to award tickets to other candidates on her constituencies.
“Maryam can only contest the election if high court suspends the accountability verdict. She can file an appeal in the high court within 10 days after the verdict. So we have to field Maryam’s replacement as legal procedure for the appeal may take quite some time,” he said. Most Pakistani media groups remain critical over the conviction of Sharif and Maryam, saying the extremist and sectarian religious parties that are rapidly mainstreaming with official encouragement may benefit from this judgment.
“The wild cards and possible benefactors of the verdict could be the slew of extremist and sectarian religious parties (a reference to emerging Tareek Labbaik Pakistan and Hafiz Saeed’s Milli Muslim League) that are rapidly mainstreaming with official encouragement. They are not about to gain power, but they are shifting the body politic even further to the right and eroding the politics of conservative moderation as exemplified by the PML-N,” The Express Tribune said in its editorial.
The Dawn said, “For Pakistan, there is a double disappointment. Notwithstanding all the dubious legal manoeuvres against Sharif, his family and the PML-N in recent times, the Sharif family ought to have explained in a forthright and credible way the source of the family’s vast wealth. “Such an explanation may not have changed the course of the law against the Sharifs, but it could have set a welcome and much-needed political precedent of transparency and self-accountability.”
The NAB had filed the case, along with two others, on the Supreme Court’s directives in the landmark Panama Papers case verdict last year which disqualified Sharif, the three-time prime minister.