Activists of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz shout slogans outside the anti-corruption court before the sentencing decision against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Islamabad: Pakistan’s former premier was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the Avenfield case linked to the purchase of luxury London flats, by the accountability court on Friday.
In the highly anticipated verdict deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10-years imprisonment, his daughter Maryam to seven years and his son-law Muhammad Safdar to one year in prison. Nawaz has also been fined 8 million pounds for owning assets without declaration and for not cooperating with NAB while Maryam has been fined 2 million pounds.
After the court decision, several opposition leaders and political rivals warmly welcomed the decision while Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders claimed that the decision was not made on the basis of justice.
“For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a corrupt prime minister was first disqualified and now convicted and send to jail for 10 years. This is the real change and hope for the people” remarked Salaar Hasan, a university student.
The court decision is seen as a major political setback in upcoming elections for PML-N which already lost public sympathy due to Nawaz Sharif’s alleged corruption and criticism of state institutions.
“This critical court decision against Sharif family comes only 20 days before the elections which is quite disturbing and surprising for voters” said Madiha Khan, an International Relations lecturer in Islamabad.
PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif rejected the verdict.
Sharif’s party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) rejected the court verdict against Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and Mohammad Safdar.
Reacting to the verdict during a press conference, Shahbaz Sharif rejected the decision terming it ‘unjust’ and “politically motivated”. Shehbaz termed the decision “a dark chapter in Pakistan’s history.” He announced to challenge the decision in high court. “The timing of the verdict is an attempt to manipulate the election process,” the former Punjab chief minister added.
PTI activists celebrate
As soon as the court decision was announced, activists of PTI showed victory signs and danced to celebrate the decision, sharing sweets with each other.
“You don’t have to be a PTI supporter to celebrate this verdict, you just have to be a Pakistani,” said Farhan Khan, a member of PTI.
Shandana Rehman, an Islamabad citizen, exclaimed that “Imran Khan may have his own flaws, but he promised this nation to root out corruption and crooked people and he delivered on that promise.”
‘Being held accountable’
Lauding the court verdict, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan said that or the first time in the country’s history “the powerful are being held accountable” and punished. “This is just the beginning. July 26 will see the dawn of ‘Naya Pakistan’ (new Pakistan)” Imran told his supporters while addressing supporters in Swat following the announcement of the Avenfield reference verdict against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.
Imran Khan said he was the first person to speak out against corruption in the country.
His opposition party spearheaded the corruption campaign in Pakistan which first led to ouster of Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court on corruption charges and later barred from politics for life.
Verdict impacts stocks
The political uncertainty regarding the decision concerning Nawaz Sharif on Friday was not taken well by the investors and other stakeholders of the Pakistani Stock Exchange which remained under pressure for the whole week. The index lost 129 points and closed at 40109 points.
Analysts affirmed that the market requires stability, however added that the final decision would have no impact on the stocks in the long run.
Muzammil Aslam, CEO of Investment Company EFG Hermes, was quoted as saying by Geo News that, “Stock exchange is not fond of uncertainty”. But Aslam was confident that “stocks will bounce back to their usual trading levels” once the uncertain situation is over.