Nawaz Sharif Convicted Again by NAB Court of Pakistan
| Virendra Kumar Gaur, Former IG, BSF - 24 Dec 2018

Nawaz Sharif Convicted Again by NAB Court of Pakistan

By V K Gaur

New Delhi, Dec 24, 2018: A NAB court of Pakistan awarded former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption case on Monday. The court also fined Nawaz $25 million and 1.5m pounds and seizure of properties, according to initial reports.

He was however acquitted in the Flagship Investments case because the court saw no case against Nawaz in the Flagship case.

Nawaz has been taken into custody and will be transported to jail shortly under heavy security. His lawyer requested that the PML-N leader be shifted to Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail instead of Adiala Jail. The court has reserved its verdict on the request and asked for Nawaz's medical reports.

Nawaz reached the Federal Judicial Complex after 2:15 pm. PML-N supporters gathered outside the premises began stone pelting. They tried to force their way into the court complex.

Earlier on Dec 19, 2018, Nawaz Sharif was released from Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail where he with his family was lodged since 13 July 18.

 Islamabad High Court bench (IHC)allowed petitions filed by the Sharif family against the Accountability court’s 6 July verdict in Aven field reference case. NAB court found them guilty and awarded jail sentences and fine.IHC suspended the sentences against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and captain (retired) Mohammad Safdar son-in-law. It was alleged that they acquired the property through corrupt, dishonest or illegal means.

Sharif’s sons, Hassan and Hussain, have been absconding and were declared “proclaimed offenders” in the case. Three more corruption references pending with NAB relate to the Hudaibya Paper Mills, Ittefaq Foundries and Raiwind assets.

Nawaz and his sons are accused in all three graft references whereas Maryam Nawaz and Safdar were accused in the Aven field reference only. The two brothers, based abroad, had been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.

The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017.

The Lahore High Court reserved its verdict on three identical petitions seeking for the quashing of corruption references pending adjudication since 2000 against PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and other members of his family. In its references, NAB accused the Sharifs of allegedly committing Rs642.743 million worth of corruption in the Hudaibya Paper Mills case.

In the Ittefaq Foundries reference, they were accused of securing huge loans and allegedly misappropriating them, causing millions of rupees of losses to the national exchequer.

Similarly, in the Raiwind assets case, the Sharifs were charged with accumulating large sums of money and assets beyond their declared means of income by allegedly misusing their authority.

Nawaz Sharif denied any wrongdoing in all the three references of NAB.

Nawaz says the charges are politically motivated. The three-time prime minister was ousted from power a year earlier by Pakistan's Supreme Court after his children were linked to offshore companies in the Panama Papers leaks of 2015. Sharif is facing trial in three cases that were launched against him last September following a verdict by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case on July 28 that disqualified him as prime minister.
 

Pak media reports alleged that Nawaz Sharif laundered USD 4.9 billion to India. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) took notice of media report which made the claim and subsequently ordered a probe.

As per reports, the World Bank’s Migration and Remittance Book 2016, had 
quoted a media report which made the claim, but the details of the report were not mentioned. Pakistan's Geo News reported that the statement in the book claims that the amount was laundered to the Indian Finance Ministry after which Indian foreign exchange reserves witnessed an upshot and Pakistan suffered.

The World Bank was quick to deny the report of any remittances to India. However, the media hype was powerful enough to tarnish the image of Nawaz, his PML-N party before elections. It is alleged that the episode was the brainchild of Pakistan’s intelligence network that was all out to undermine the image of Nawaz and his political party and their alleged clandestine links with arch enemy of Pakistan.

Soon after the three leaders walked free on 19 December evening, PML-N workers took to the streets dancing, distributing sweets and raising slogans in favour of the verdict. PML-N will start public contact drive from 30 December 18.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal said that NAB will appeal in the apex court against the IHC’s verdict.

Meanwhile, during their meeting in the parliament house, this week brothers Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif discussed various aspects of the accountability court’s verdict – to be announced on December 24 – in the remaining corruption references against members of the Sharif family. Shahbaz Sharif brother of Nawaz Sharif is a powerful and popular leader of PML-N. He was Chief Minister of Punjab Province three times. Presently he is Leader of opposition in the National Assembly. After the disqualification of Nawaz, he was the PM face of the Party but Imran was able to form the government.

Shahbaz who was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Ashiana Housing Scheme case, is currently in the federal capital for a National Assembly session.

The accountability court Judge Arshad Malik on December 19 reserved judgment on the remaining corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in light of the Supreme Court’s Panama Gate verdict. Supreme court was apparently annoyed over delayed proceedings and directed the accountability court to wind up and conclude the case by 24 Dec 18 and announce the decision.

It is relevant to recall that IHC while granting bail to Sharif family and suspending sentence on 19 Dec the high court had observed that the accountability court verdict was based on “prima facie, tentative opinion”.  It found NAB to have failed to prove the corruption charges. The rank and file of PML N are celebrating the court judgement. Their public contacts drives are likely to be aggressive and assertive as such violence is likely to spill on the streets

According to press reports a senator of Imran Khan’s PTI party, Faisal Javad, told a local TV channel: "It is only a suspension. But they are guilty all the same. Their destination remains Adiala Jail."

The suspension of Nawaz Sharif's conviction is likely to boost the morale of his followers. However, PML is unlikely to get any mileage in the short run because elections are far off and Imran’ government is firm in a saddle.  He reportedly has the strong support of army and ISI.

The IHC ruling may, however, entail a legal advantage to the Sharif family. His trial was seen by many as an unfair one, and the conviction was widely seen as based on assumptions rather than solid evidence. This is seen as the reason why his sentence has been suspended and is likely to determine the final outcome of his appeal.

Many political experts say Sharif's conviction in July came under pressure from the ruling establishment which wanted to deprive him of a possible fourth term in power. With the elections over and a new government in place, they say, the courts are under no such pressure anymore.

But others feel that as a free man, Nawaz Sharif could still cause discomfort in the system, having emerged as a powerful voice against the political role of Pakistan's military. 

Photo Courtesy – The News, Pakistan / DawnNewsTV

(The writer Mr VK Gaur is former IG, BSF and has written more than 50 Books on the issues related to Defence, Strategy and Internal security. )

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Indian Observer Post and Indian Observer Post does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


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