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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2374

Nawaz Sharif Hit by a Triple-Whammy: former Pakistani PM Stares into a Very Deep Abyss

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

The stream of bad news from Nawaz Sharif, the former Pakistani Prime Minister, shows no sign of early let-up recently: his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, has just undergone treatment in London for cancer; he has been banned in Pakistan from holding either public or party office for life; then, he, along with his daughter, Mariam Nawaz, have just been sentenced to jail for 10 and 7 years respectively by an accountability court in Pakistan.

While protesting his innocence after the judgment, Mr Sharif and his daughter said that they would return to Pakistan from London within the 10-day-period set out by the court to do so, saying that they were prepared to be arrested on arrival. Mariam Nawaz, meanwhile, said that she was going to come on Friday, next week.

The troubles started for the family of Nawaz Sharif when their names appeared in leaked papers of the ‘Panama gate’, while he was still the sitting prime minister. Not only did he deny the allegations, but also branded it as the worst form of a political witch-hunt against someone, who was committed to safeguard democracy in Pakistan, implying his frosty relationship with the powerful military.

His political opponents, however, especially Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician and his team were determined not to let it be swept under the carpet: their determined campaign dealt Mr Sharif blow after blow, until he was forced out of office by courts in the end.

Without holding office and losing the political influence at a steady rate, Mr Sharif lost all vital levers of power that could otherwise have wielded some influence in his favour, in quick succession that left him in a transparent bubble of zero-immunity.

During the court proceedings, neither Mr Sharif nor the members of the immediately family could account for the funding that led to buying two flats in London.

Since he hails from a wealthy, business family in Pakistan and his is not a classic case of rags-to-riches in the region where the trend is endemic, he could have provided the court with evidence of financing, if the family had any. Unfortunately, Mr Sharif – and his family for that matter – failed to do so and the accountability court handed down the sentences and a massive fine to the family.

While the case was in progress, the defence team completely failed to satisfy the court about the financing of the two flats in London; the longest spear in their arsenal was both rusty and pliable - spear

It was a letter from Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, who ruled the tiny gulf nation from 2007 to 2013, as a way of explaining how Mr Sharif got money to buy the flats in London that was produce in court in 2016 in the middle of the trial.

While observing the sudden appearance of the document that was almost 30-years-old by then, the court was not amused.

During the trial, dubbed Panamagate, Justice Khosa, a member of five-judge bench, bluntly asked the defence counsel for Mr Sharif: “You do not have any explanation for the properties except for this?”

Mr Sharif said that he would appeal against the verdict on his return. Whether that will be enough not to be sent to jail straightaway on landing, remains to be seen, though. Since Mr Sharif was an ardent advocate of democracy, he could not afford not to return to Pakistan to set an example and show due respect for courts – and of course, the constitution.

With the general election in Pakistan just two week away, the repercussion of the verdict have already made a significant impact on the electoral fortunes of PML-N, the party that Nawz Sharif used to lead.
While taking on the political elite without fearing the consequences, Pakistani judiciary has set a welcome precedent in the region where corruption and blatant abuse of power go hand in hand.

As for Mr Sharif, the predicament would not just end with a jail term and fine in Pakistan. If his appeal against the verdict is rejected by the High Court, the British authorities will be compelled to pursue a case against him on the grounds of money laundering under the recently-introduced strict laws covering the issue, that could potentially lead to the confiscation of his assets.

- Asian Tribune -

Nawaz Sharif Hit by a Triple-Whammy: former Pakistani PM Stares into a Very Deep Abyss
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