3 times PM, 4 times sentenced

December 24, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was arrested from the courtroom after he was found guilty in the Al-Azizia corruption reference and was sentenced to seven years in prison. The court acquitted the PML-N supremo in the Flagship reference but imposed a fine of Rs1.5 billion. His sons, Hassan and Hussain, were declared absconders.

The verdict was announced by Judge Arshad Malik of Accountability Court No2. The court had reserved the verdict on Wednesday after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) concluded its final arguments on Tuesday. The court, after earlier reserving its decision, accepted Nawaz’s application for imprisonment in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.

Former premier and senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, speaking to the media, said the verdict was announced behind closed doors when it should have been “announced openly”. “We will protest against the verdict and overcome it,” said Abbasi, adding that the deposed premier should have been acquitted in both references as the top accountability watchdog had no evidence against the Sharif family.

He also said the party will thrive as it did during earlier trying times. “PML-N braved the era of former president Pervez Musharraf.” The former premier had reached the court premises along with Hamza Shehbaz. Senior PML-N leaders, including Maryam Aurangzeb, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Raja Zafarul Haq among others were also present outside the premises. Following the verdict announcement, PML-N supporters clashed with security personnel. Tear gas and baton-charge was used to disperse the protesters. Security around the Judicial Complex in Islamabad was increased ahead of the verdict, with at least 1,400 personnel deployed in and around the court premises. All routes leading to the accountability court were also sealed. A large number of PML-N supporters were present nearby at the Dhoke Kashmirian signal and were barred from moving towards the accountability court by security personnel.

The Al Azizia and Flagship references were filed against members of the Sharif family in September 2017. Sharif arrived in Islamabad from Lahore on Sunday and met his younger brother and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif at the Ministers’ Enclave. Agencies