Avenfield verdict declared at wrong time, says Khursheed Shah


On Friday, the accountability court judge Mohammad Bashir announced the verdict, handing Nawaz Sharif a 10-year prison term and an £8 million fine in the Avenfield properties reference.

At least on Friday, it appeared unlikely that either Nawaz Sharif or his daughter would appear in Pakistan to go to jail.

Last Nawaz was disqualified in the Panama Papers case, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed three corruption references against the Sharifs. The case stemmed from the so-called Panama Papers leak that disclosed expensive and undeclared property owned by the Sharif family in London.

Sharif was not in court to hear the verdict, the climax of a two-year investigation that has gripped the nation.

Nawaz Sharif and Maryam are now in London visiting Kulsoom Nawaz, who is suffering from cancer and is undergoing treatment there.

"The court sentenced Sharif to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and fined eight million pounds (over $10 million)".

NAB officials told the local media Maryam's husband Muhammad Safdar, who is in Pakistan, will be arrested on Monday after his warrant is obtained.

Both denied wrongdoing and will appeal the decision, said Sharif ally Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, adding that the former premier would return to Pakistan before the election. PML-N workers also repeatedly bring up the condition of Nawaz's ailing wife, dying of cancer in a London hospital, which opponents say is a tactic to exploit voters' emotions and sentiments. Sharif may not have done much to enhance ties with India, but his public statements on India reflected that he meant to do more, which was in direct contrast to the Pakistani Army's position.

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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan.

Two PML-N leaders, who spoke to Asia Times on the condition of anonymity, believe Nawaz will challenge the verdict but will also return to Pakistan from the United Kingdom and may even serve prison time to "gain political mileage".

"Achieve your goal with your vote on July 25 and target those who set aside your decisions through conspiracies and fraud", he added, referring to the upcoming general elections. "This decision will be written in black words in history", he said.

But the only legal option open to the party is appealing against the verdict at the Islamabad High Court.

The sentences mark a grim milestone for Sharif, who has seen his political fortunes fall with stunning speed in the past year. "The PML-N is on the verge of extinction while we are putting forward a very strong lineup for the elections".

Qadri, who left PML-N last month and is now contesting polls as an independent candidate, said that PML-N has lost popularity among masses and people are not even letting party's candidates enter the constituencies. While there is no formal alliance between these two parties, the possibility has not been ruled out.

1990 - First elected prime minister.

"Announcing the verdict so close to the elections can have multiple meanings", he said.