ISLAMABAD: Legal challenges for one of Pakistan’s most influential political families, comprising ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his political heir and daughter Maryam Nawaz, and younger brother Shehbaz Sharif — former chief minister of Pakistan’s powerful Punjab province — seem to be brewing with new allegations of corruption and misuse of authority surfacing against them.
The government announced it was referring four more corruption cases against the Sharif family to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation.
“They misused the taxpayers’ money and authority while in power,” Shahzad Akbar, special assistant to the prime minister on accountability, alleged during a press briefing on Saturday.
These will be four fresh cases against the Sharif family and the first to be referred to the NAB and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) by the incumbent government.
Detailing the misuse of public resources by Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam, special assistant to the PM on media Iftikhar Durrani alleged that they both enjoyed unauthorized use of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif’s aircraft, besides squandering public funds on the erection of a security fence around their palatial residence in Lahore, and misuse of authority while in office.
Government officials also revealed during the press briefing that a new high-end property portfolio in Frederick Close, central London, worth around £2.3 million ($2.95 million) recently came to the fore, reportedly owned by Sharif’s late wife.
The documents about its ownership and rental income between 2012 and 2016 had been available, “but were buried in the files,” said Akbar.
Senator Mushahidullah Khan, veteran leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, however, said that the cases against the Sharif family were “politically motivated” and the prosecutors had failed to present concrete evidence of corruption against Sharif in the accountability court.
“The PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) government thinks it can politically damage the Sharif family by leveling false allegations of corruption and misuse of authority against them, but this is not going to work,” he told Arab News.
Pakistan’s law required Nawaz Sharif, being a member of the National Assembly and holder of the country’s top public office, to declare his dependents’ assets, including his wife’s, in the official documents, which he did not.
The undeclared central London property held in the name of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz will now be probed by both the NAB and the FBR.
“We are handing over all documentary evidence to these institutions for investigation,” said Durrani.
The corruption cases that the Sharif family has faced until now were either filed during their own tenure in power in 2013-18, or during the previous governments of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and General Pervez Musharraf.
Shehbaz Sharif, former chief minister of Punjab Province, is currently in the NAB’s custody, facing at least two cases of corruption pertaining to his tenure in the office.
In July this year, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were handed jail terms of 11 years, six years and one year respectively, in a corruption reference pertaining to their undeclared offshore companies and properties in London.
The trio is currently on bail while the verdict in two more corruption references against Nawaz Sharif is expected to be announced in the next couple of weeks.
Political analysts believe that the Sharif family will still have a long way to go to prove their innocence in the courts and return to the political arena.
“Any imminent return of the Sharif family in national politics does not seem possible in the given situation,” Professor Tahir Malik, academic and analyst, told Arab News.
Sharif has yet to defend his position in two corruption references currently undergoing hearing against him involving Al-Azizia Steel Mill in Saudi Arabia and monetary transactions made through Flagship Investment Limited, both of which he denies any connection to.