Sunday 17 February 2019

Pakistan’s former PM returns to face jail term

Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Mariam were in London when a Pakistani court convicted them of corruption and sent them to prison.

Pakistani police are deployed at Lahore airport (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
Pakistani police are deployed at Lahore airport (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

By Zaheer Babar, Associated Press

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is facing a 10-year jail term on corruption charges on his return to Pakistan.

Sharif is due to arrive in Lahore from London alongside his daughter Mariam, who was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The two were in the UK capital visiting Sharif’s unwell wife when a Pakistani court convicted them of corruption and sent them to prison.

Sharif’s son-in-law is currently serving his one-year prison sentence on the same charge, which stems from the purchase of luxury apartments in the UK that the court said were bought with illegally obtained money.

Sharif is expected to appeal his conviction and seek bail.

Troops of Pakistani para military force arrive in Lahore (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Ahead of his return, police swept through Lahore, arresting scores of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League party workers to prevent them from greeting him at the airport.

In a video message on Friday reportedly from aboard his aircraft en route to Pakistan, Sharif said he was returning knowing he would be taken directly to prison.

Sharif has been banned from participating in politics, and his brother Shahbaz Sharif now heads his Pakistan Muslim League and is fighting for re-election on July 25.

Shahbaz Sharif now leads the Pakistan Muslim League (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

In a televised appeal to supporters from London earlier this week, Sharif said he was not afraid of prison and asked people to vote for his party. He also used the opportunity to criticise Pakistan’s powerful military, which has ruled the country directly or indirectly for most of its 71-year history, saying Pakistan now has a “state above the state”.

During his term in office, Sharif had criticised the military’s involvement in civilian affairs and its efforts in fighting extremists.

Pakistani and international rights groups have accused the military of seeking to maintain its influence in Pakistani politics by keeping Sharif out of power. The military denied the accusations saying their assistance in carrying out the elections was requested by Pakistan’s Election Commission. The army will deploy 350,000 security personnel to polling stations throughout the country on election day.

Press Association

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