Court sentences Pakistan’s former PM Nawaz Sharif to 10 years’ jail on corruption charges

Nawaz Sharif, right, former Prime Minister and leader of Pakistan Muslim League, gestures to supporters as his daughter Maryam Nawaz looks on during party’s workers convention in Islamabad, Pakistan June 4, 2018. (FAISAL MAHMOOD/REUTERS/FILE)
Updated 06 July 2018

Court sentences Pakistan’s former PM Nawaz Sharif to 10 years’ jail on corruption charges

  • Sharif sentenced to 10 years’ jail for having assets beyond declared income and one year over non-cooperation with anti-corruption watchdog.
  • Maryam Nawaz sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment over abetting and one year over falsifying documents.

ISLAMABAD: An accountability court on Friday issued a 176-page verdict against the disqualified premier, Nawaz Sharif, and his family over corruption claims linked to the 2015 Panama papers, forcing his political party to rethink its election strategy after a series of legal and political setbacks.

The court verdict enraged Sharif’s die-hard supporters.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) rejected the verdict, and Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz, pledged to challenge the order.

“Nawaz Sharif has been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment (on ownership of assets beyond income) and fined £8 million ($10 million). Maryam Nawaz is sentenced to seven years over abetting, forgery and fake trust deed document and fined £2 million. (Ret.) Capt. Safdar Awan, husband of Maryam, has been sentenced one year’s imprisonment (over non-cooperation with NAB),” said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor, Sardar Muzaffar, outside the court.

He said that the Avenfield properties would be confiscated by the federation.

The ruling by the trial court judge, Muhammed Bashir, came several hours after the stipulated announcement time. The sentencing also disqualified Nawaz and Safdar for life. The authorities are also expected to seize their assets and freeze their bank accounts.

“We have faith in God and are not worried,” tweeted Maryam Nawaz. She called on the nation to stand with her father who had faced similar situations in the past and remained steadfast.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which spearheaded a campaign against Nawaz Sharif following the Panama leaks, praised the verdict.

“We were the first petitioners in the Panama case. Imran Khan was adamant to pursue the case for which he held rallies and protests. Nawaz Sharif’s sentencing is credited to Khan. This is a landmark decision. Pakistan’s future will be better now,” PTI’s Ali Awan told Arab News.

However, political analyst Qamar Cheema said that those thinking of capitalizing on the verdict should not underestimate thepopularity of the former ruling party among the masses.

“PML-N will not perish politically as it has a strong base in northern Punjab. Even with institutional pressure and this verdict, the party is maintaining its position,” he said.

The Sharifs were accused of embezzling public funds to offshore accounts that were used to purchase four high valued Avenfield properties, an apartment block on Park Lane in central London. The graft case also implicated Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain.

The court dismissed applications by lawyers of the defendants on Thursday seeking a seven-day delay in announcing the verdict. Sharif and his co-accused daughter, Maryam Nawaz, both of whom are in London since June monitoring the health of Sharif’s wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, who is being treated for throat cancer, pleaded their inability to appear before the court. However, Sharif’s son-in-law Awan also failed to appear to hear the verdict.

In compliance to the Supreme Court order of July 28, 2017, which ousted the three-time prime minister, declaring him “dishonest” under Article 62 (1) (f) of Pakistan’s constitution, three corruption references were filed by Pakistan’s National Accountability Court (NAB) in September against the Sharifs and a fourth against their relative, ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar.

In October, the accountability court had indicted the disqualified politician, his daughter, and her husband, Awan. Dar was also indicted, but he fled to London citing health issues and medical reasons. Sharif’s two sons, who are British citizens, also ignored the repeated court summons. The three were subsequently declared absconders. Their trial is expected to be held separately in which the two brothers are declared proclaimed offenders in the three graft references.

The exhaustive accountability court trial has held 107 hearings in a span of nine months, most of which Sharif, Nawaz, and Awan attended. A Joint Investigation Team, constituted by a three-member Apex court bench to probe and prosecute the accused, produced 18 witnesses who were cross-examined by the defense counsel.

Sharif was forced to relinquish his leadership position from his party, ending his active involvement in its political affairs.

Court hearings continue pending a decision on the other two corruption references against the Sharifs, but they do not include Nawaz and Awan.

Former law ministry adviser and legal expert Sharaft Ali, who was present at the accountability court, told Arab News that the prosecution would try to prolong the decision in the remaining two references so that the court would not hand down concurrent punishment.

Although the defendants will be arrested immediately, “they can file an appeal within 10 days to suspend the trial court’s order” in the high court, said Ali.

 


Philippine police say will arrest anyone flouting vaping ban

Updated 20 November 2019

Philippine police say will arrest anyone flouting vaping ban

  • The ban came days after Philippine health authorities reported the nation’s first vaping-related lung injury
  • The devices are already banned in several places such as Brazil, Singapore, Thailand and the US state of Massachusetts

MANILA: Philippine police were ordered Wednesday to arrest anyone caught vaping in public, just hours after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced he would ban e-cigarettes.
The abrupt prohibition, revealed by Duterte late Tuesday adds to a growing global backlash against a product once promoted as less harmful than tobacco smoking.
Duterte, a former smoker, called the devices “toxic” and said vaping introduced “chemicals” into the user’s body.
He ordered the arrest of anyone vaping publicly in a country that already has some of Asia’s toughest anti-smoking rules.
No formal, written order has been made public that spells out the scope of the ban or penalties for violations.
Duterte is notorious internationally for his deadly anti-narcotics crackdown, but he has also targeted tobacco with a wide-ranging ban on smoking in public.
Citing “the order of the president,” on Wednesday a statement from the head of the Philippine police ordered “effective today, all police units nationwide to enforce the ban on use of vapes; ensure that all violators will be arrested.”
The ban came days after Philippine health authorities reported the nation’s first vaping-related lung injury, which resulted in a 16-year-old girl being hospitalized.
Vaping has taken off in the Philippines, with speciality shops and vapers puffing away in public a common sight.
E-cigarette users were caught off guard by the ban and questioned the utility of arresting people who, at worst, were hurting themselves.
“It’s inappropriate. In any case, we don’t hurt people, the environment or animals,” said 22-year-old student Alexis Martin.
“Why are vapers being targeted?”
E-cigarettes warm flavored liquid to produce vapor that is free of the estimated 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, but does contain a number of substances that could potentially be harmful.
Critics say that apart from being harmful in themselves, the multiple exotic flavors of e-cigarette liquids appeal particularly to youngsters and risk getting them addicted to nicotine.
The devices have become hugely popular in the past decade but a rash of vaping-linked deaths and illnesses in the United States is feeding caution about the product, already banned in some places.
In September 2019 India became the latest country to ban the import, sale, production and advertising of e-cigarettes, citing in particular concerns for its youth.
The devices are already banned in several places such as Brazil, Singapore, Thailand and the US state of Massachusetts.