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Pak court suspends jail terms of Sharifs

Islamabad, Sep 19: A Pakistani court has suspended the jail sentences given to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and two family members by an anti-corruption court earlier this year, with the three expected to be released after the payment of a bail bond.

Sharif, his daughter Maryam and his son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were convicted in July by an anti-corruption court of not being able to prove the source of assets used to buy a set of upmarket London flats.

 

On Wednesday, Islamabad High Court judge Athar Minallah ruled that the National Accountability Bureau, Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog, was unable to prove a financial link between the former prime minister and the apartments in question.

A two-member bench, led by Minallah, suspended the jail sentences while hearing the Sharifs’ appeal against their convictions.

Their convictions will stand, although their sentences have been suspended.

Sharif had been sentenced to 10 years in jail and a $10.5m fine, his daughter Maryam to a seven-year jail sentence and a $2.6m fine, and Maryam’s husband Safdar to a year in prison.

Sharif remains barred from running for public office for life, after the Supreme Court in April ruled that he had lied on a parliamentary wealth declaration and that the disqualification from that crime would last for an indefinite period.

Sharif, his daughter, and his son-in-law will now each have to pay 500,000 Pakistani rupees (roughly $4,000) in separate surety bonds before their release.

Hamza Shehbaz, Nawaz Sharif’s nephew, said the family was thankful for the ruling.

“Today is a happy day that our leader will be released from jail. We are thankful to Allah. As I said earlier, this verdict from the anti-corruption court, it was clear that there was no corruption proved against Nawaz Sharif. Hopefully, we will show that there is nothing to this case.”

“Today’s fundamental news is that the verdict by the anti-corruption court against Nawaz Sharif was very weak, and … hopefully, we will continue our legal battle against all the other cases.”

A crowd of hundreds of Sharif’s supporters had gathered at the court ahead of the verdict and raised slogans praising him following the announcement of the suspension of the sentence.

The National Accountability Bureau is expected to appeal the Islamabad High Court’s verdict at the Supreme Court.

Hearings in two other corruption cases against Sharif and his family are continuing at an anti-corruption court.

Wednesday’s decision will come as a blow to Sharif’s bitter political rival Imran Khan, who swept a July general election following Sharif’s conviction and jailing.

Khan, now prime minister, was in Saudi Arabia on a state visit when the decision was announced.