Sharif's Legal Twist: High Court to Review Second Graft Conviction

Опубликовано: 04 Декабрь 2023

Nawaz Sharif WEFPakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. (Photo: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/ Jolanda Flubacher, Flickr, License)

The Islamabad High Court will review former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s second corruption conviction on Thursday, following its reversal of the first conviction last week. Another acquittal would remove all obstacles on his path to running for elections next February and becoming Pakistan’s prime minister for the fourth time.

Sharif, 73, was ousted in July 2017 for lying about wealth exposed by the Panama Papers leaks that revealed undeclared businesses in Saudi Arabia and luxurious apartments in London owned by him and his family.

In 2018, he was convicted on graft charges, receiving a 10-year sentence related to the London flats he was not able to afford according to his declared income. He received a lifetime ban from politics.

Sharif left the country four years ago on medical grounds to avoid serving his sentence but returned in October, pursuing appeals in both cases. The Islamabad High Court's verdict last Wednesday considering the flats came after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the anti-graft watchdog, did not contest the request for acquittal.

“God has made us victorious; I left the matter in the mercy of God,” said Sharif while leaving the court. Throughout, he maintained his innocence, insisting the graft charges were politically motivated.

Sharif also challenged a seven-year sentence for the undeclared family business in Saudi Arabia; the appeal for this case is scheduled for Thursday.

Legal experts argue the cases against Sharif were politically motivated and expected to be quashed.

“The speedy acquittal of the three-time Premier is less surprising than the hurried convictions five years ago. The cases were always considered flimsy and politically manipulated, with quite a few loopholes,” said senior lawyer Osama Malik to OCCRP.

Sharif, who served as prime minister in the 1990s, faced a feud with the country’s president, leading to their removal from office by the military. His government was again toppled in 1999 by a military coup. He returned as prime minister in 2013 but was disqualified by the Supreme Court in 2017 for failing to declare a monthly salary of around US$ 2,700 from a company owned by his son. Sharif denies receiving the salary.

Tensions between civilian governments and the military have been a constant source of instability in Pakistan, with the military staging coups and governing the country for nearly half the time since independence from British colonial rule in 1947. The military denies meddling in politics.