By Muhammad Luqman
An anti-graft court on Monday handed Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case, and acquitted him in the Flagship Investments reference. The court has ordered the confiscation of his properties.
The court also fined Nawaz Sharif $25 million and 1.5m pounds (About Rs 3.5 billion), according to media reports.
The PML-N supremo was taken into custody in court and transferred to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, the twin city of the capital, Islamabad. He will be transferred to Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore on Tuesday.
The verdict was announced almost immediately after Nawaz arrived in the courtroom. He has the option to challenge the verdict against him.
Accountability Judge Arshad Malik while reading out the short order said that Nawaz was indicted in the Al-Azizia reference under Section 9(a)(v) of the National Accountability Ordinance. The order added that there was no case against Nawaz in the Flagship reference.
Section 9(a)(v) says: “A holder of a public office, or any other person, is said to commit or to have committed the offence of corruption and corrupt practices if he or any of his dependents or benamidar owns, possesses, or has acquired right or title in any assets or holds irrevocable power of attorney in respect of any assets or pecuniary resources disproportionate to his known sources of income, which he cannot reasonably account for, or maintains a standard of living beyond that which is commensurate with his sources of income.”
The short order said that the burden of proof lies on Nawaz in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills case.
As Nawaz reached the Federal Judicial Complex in Islamabad, PML-N supporters gathered outside the premises began stone pelting police and trying to force their way into the court complex, TV Channels reported. Police retaliated with tear gas shelling and baton-charging the supporters.
Accountability Judge Mohammad Arshad Malik on Dec 19 had reserved judgement in both the references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the former premier.
On July 28, 2017, the SC verdict had, besides disqualifying then prime minister Nawaz from his position, also directed the accountability authority to file three references – regarding the family’s Avenfield Properties, Al-Azizia, and Flagship Investment – before the accountability court.
In September 2017, NAB filed three references against members of the Sharif family.
On July 6 this year, Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir handed down convictions to Nawaz, Maryam, and son-in-law Capt Mohammad Safdar (retd) in the Avenfield Properties reference and jailed them for 10 years, seven years and one year respectively.
But on Sept 19, the Islamabad High Court granted all three bail after suspending their sentences. NAB’s appeal against the suspension of the sentence remains pending before the SC.
Talking to media inside court room soon after court’s verdict, Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said he never misused his powers or did corruption.
“My conscience is clear as I never did corruption,” he added. “All praise to Almighty, that I never did any corruption,” Nawaz Sharif said.