Nawaz Sharif sentenced to 10-year imprisonment in #AvenfieldReference

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Under beefed up security and amid indecisive political atmosphere, the Accountability Court on Friday sentenced the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif 10-year imprisonment in Avenfield Reference Case, pertaining to Sharif family’s four flats in Park Lane, London.

The Court also awarded seven-year imprisonment to Maryam Nawaz and one-year imprisonment to her husband Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar.

The much-awaited 174-page Avenfield Reference verdict was announced by the judge Muhammad Bashir at the Judicial Complex in Islamabad wherein 1,500 Rangers and police personnel had been deployed to avoid any untoward incident.

Section 144 had also been imposed around the Judicial Complex amid the expected decision of Avenfield Reference.

Judge Muhammad Bashir also imposed a fine of 10 million pounds on Nawaz Sharif and 2 million pounds on Maryam Nawaz. In addition, he also ordered to confiscate Avenfield apartments owned by Sharif family.

It is worth mentioning here that Maryam Nawaz was contesting the upcoming general elections 2018 from NA-127 Lahore-V while Captain (retd) Safdar from NA-14 Mansehra. However following today’s verdict, they have been barred from vying for the polls for next 10 years.

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Talking to media, the NAB Prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said that the convicted Sharif family members could file appeals against the Accountability Court’s verdict in Avenfield Reference within 10 days.

Earlier in the day, the Court rejected identical petitions filed by Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz, seeking at least seven-day deferment of Avenfield Reference Case judgement, and said that it would announce the judgement at 12:30 pm.

But later the verdict was further delayed four times, – first till 2:30 pm, second till 3:00 pm, third till 3:30 pm, and then again for further 40 to 45 minutes.

It is worth mentioning here that two main Opposition Parties Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) hadn’t also endorsed Nawaz Sharif’s plea of seeking postponement of the verdict, saying that an accused could not dictate the Court and all persons irrespective of his previous Office must be treated equally as per the law.

The Accountability Court had reserved its verdict in Avenfield Reference on July 3 after the completion of the hearings, and set July 6 (Friday) as date for the announcement of the judgement.

However, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz filed the petitions in the Court to postpone the announcement of the verdict for seven days, saying that they wanted to hear the verdict in their presence in the Courtroom but now it wasn’t possible because of Kulsoom Nawaz’s deteriorated health condition in London’s Harley Street Clinic.

The NAB Prosecutor opposed Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz’s plea seeking delay in Avenfield Reference verdict. He said that the accused had deliberately not appeared before the Court, and added that the verdict must be announced today.

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Earlier talking to media outside the Accountability Court, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Senator Asif Kirmani said that they hoped for the best, adding Almighty Allah would do better.

Asif Kirmani said that Kalsoom Nawaz was not well, and she was still on the ventilator. He said that as soon as the health condition of Kalsoom Nawaz was better, Nawaz Sharif would return to Pakistan.

The Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said that every accused should be brought to justice. He said that if the Accountability Court announced punishment to Nawaz Sharif, he would have to return back to make an appeal within eight days.

Sheikh Rasheed said that the situation would become clear within next 10 days. He said that no serious response would come if Nawaz Sharif was awarded punishment.

“I don’t know what will happen to Nawaz Sharif in jail,” he said in response to a question by media.

The trial of Nawaz Sharif and his family members began on October 19 last year after the Supreme Court of Pakistan in its Panama verdict on July 28, apart from disqualifying the accused from the Office of Prime Minister, directed the National Accountability Court (NAB) to file Corruption References against Sharif family.

Eventually NAB filed Avenfield, Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Establishment References in the Accountability Court wherein the judge Muhammad Bashir commenced proceedings with six months as deadline set by the Supreme Court to complete the trial.

However, the proceedings failed to meet their end in the prescribed time, and further extensions were sought from the Apex Court time to time.

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The proceeding in the Avenfield Reference lasted for almost nine months, during which 107 hearings took place. In total 18 witnesses including Wajid Zia – the head of the six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed in Panama Papers Case – appeared before the Accountability Court and recorded their statements.

Nawaz Sharif’s Counsel Khawaja Haris and Maryam Nawaz’s and her husband Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar’s Counsel Amjad Pervez represented their Clients respectively in the Court. However, not a single witness was produced before the Court by Sharif family.

The former prime minister’s son Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz were also accused in NAB References; however, they didn’t make any appearance before the Court, and were declared proclaimed offenders.