Sharif Jail

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrives at his office in central London July 6. Sharif was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison by a corruption court in Islamabad July 6, lawyers said, dealing a serious blow to his party's troubled campaign ahead of the July 25 elections. (Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images)

ISLAMABAD — Dealing a severe blow to the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) ahead of the general elections, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was July 6 sentenced to 10 years in prison while his daughter Maryam Nawaz was given a seven-year jail term for graft charges in the purchase of overseas properties.

The verdict was delivered by the accountability court in the Avenfield corruption case, which is related to the Sharif family's ownership of four flats in the posh Avenfield House in London. 

Sharif, a three-time premier, was earlier disqualified from standing for his PML-N following conviction in corruption cases. His brother Shahbaz Sharif now heads the party and is running in the July vote. 

The court ordered Sharif to pay a fine of $10.6 million while Maryam Nawaz was fined $2.6 million. Her husband Captain Safdar Awan was given a one-year sentence.

Accountability Court Judge Mohammad Bashir announced the verdict after several delays. Sharif was sentenced for "owning assets beyond income" and one year – included in the 10-year term – for not cooperating with the National Accountability Bureau. He will serve his sentences concurrently.

Maryam Nawaz received a jail term "for abetting a crime" and one year – included in the 7-year term – for not cooperating, again to run concurrently. The Sharif family insists that they had purchased the apartments through "legitimate financial resources."

None of the defendants were present for the ruling. The former premier and his daughter are currently in London with Sharif's wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who is receiving cancer treatment. Awan is in Pakistan but was reportedly unable to attend.

According to the verdict, all three have been barred from engaging in politics for 10 years and the four properties in London will be confiscated by the Pakistani state. They have 10 days to appeal the verdict at the Islamabad High Court.

The Avenfield corruption case is among the multiple graft cases filed against the former premier and his children by the anti-corruption body on the Supreme Court's directives in the landmark Panama-gate verdict last year, which disqualified then Prime Minister Sharif. 

The apex court ruled that Sharif had been dishonest to Parliament and to the judicial system for failing to disclose earnings received from a company run by one of his children.

The other corruption cases filed against the Sharifs pertain to the Al-Azizia Steel Mills, Hill Metal Establishment and offshore companies, including Flagship Investment Limited and Avenfield properties of London.

The father-daughter duo wanted to delay the announcement of the verdict by a week, stating they wanted to be in court when the judgment was announced. However, the plea was dismissed.

Sharif's brother Shahbaz calling the verdict "politically motivated" and said the election would serve as a people's court that would condemn the decision.

Maryam Nawaz took to Twitter and said: "This is a very small punishment for firmly standing in front of unseen forces. The morale to fight against oppression has increased today."

She and her husband now stand barred from contesting the polls from Lahore and Mansehra respectively.

On July 6 Nawaz Sharif announced he was returning to Pakistan following the sentencing, saying he has been punished because he tried to turn the course of the country's 70-year history.

The three-time Premier said that if the punishment for "demanding respect for the vote is jail, I am coming to face it," adding that he will "not be a slave to those who violate their oath and the Constitution of Pakistan."

"I promise that I will continue this struggle until Pakistanis are not free of the chains that they are kept in for saying the truth," he said.

Sharif, however, did not give any specific time or date for his return to Pakistan. He said that the deteriorating health of his wife, who is receiving cancer treatment in London, was the reason he was not able to return immediately.

He expressed his reservations over the accountability court's decision. "No pleas filed by me in court were approved, most of them were rejected, this is unfortunate because that doesn't happen in most cases." 

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