Ex-Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif sentenced to 7 years for corruption

The three-time prime minister was handed a new prison sentence and was acquitted on charges relating to upscale properties in London. Sharif has claimed the charges against him are politically motivated.

An anti-corruption court in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad sentenced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seven years in prison for corruption on Monday.

The court acquitted him of charges related to the purchase of upscale apartments in London, but found that Sharif was unable to prove the source of income for the ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia.

Sharif, who was released on bail in September after appealing a 10-year sentence, was arrested after the ruling was announced. He can appeal the verdict.

Read more: Sharif's release spells trouble for Pakistani PM Khan

Prosecutors accused Sharif, who served three non-consecutive terms as Pakistan's prime minister, of possessing assets beyond his known sources of income. The allegations stem from a corruption investigation spurred by the Panama Papers revelations in 2016.

"It was an unexpected decision. Sharif has been convicted for the second time and his ordeal continues. The imprisonment, however, may not end Sharif's political legacy but it has almost ended his return to politics. Sharif supporters are unlikely to take to the streets but his party's lawmakers will continue to plead his case in parliament," Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based political analyst, told DW.

'Another black decision'

Thousands of activists from Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party clashed with security forces outside of the courtroom ahead of the decision.

Sharif, who returned to politics in 2013 after spending eight years in exile between 1999 and 2007, has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed he is being targeted by Pakistan's powerful security establishment.

"Sharif's conviction adds insult to injury for a man already banned from politics for life. The verdict will also fuels renewed accusations within the PML-N that Sharif is the victim of a political witch hunt. At the same time, his opponents will hail the verdict as another example of the new accountability being brought to bear on senior politicians," Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, told DW, adding that the verdict would ultimately amplify Pakistan's deep political divides.

Sharif's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, wrote on Twitter that the government "is afraid of Nawaz Sharif." 

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"How many times will you target one man? How many times will you imprison him and send him to jail?" she said. 

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pakistan's prime minister from August 2017 to May 2018, told DW that Monday's ruling was "another black decision in the history of the country."

"There is no evidence and any witnesses against Nawaz Sharif. Al-Azizia steal mill was established when Nawaz Sahrif was living in exile abroad," Abbasi told Haroon Janjua, DW's correspondent in Islamabad.

"The world is mocking us [for] how courts are giving verdicts in Pakistan. It is the first decision in which sentence was announced with doors locked and security officials holding guns inside the court. It's so-called democracy."

But Fawad Chaudhary, Pakistan's information minister, dubbed it a "historic decision."

"Sharif was unable to prove his money trail to the Supreme Court," Chaudhary told a press conference in Islamabad following the verdict.

Graft history

Last year, Pakistan's Supreme Court expelled Sharif from politics over the allegations, ending his four-year stint as prime minister.

It was not the first time Sharif had been removed from office. He was ousted as prime minister in 1993 on suspicions of corruption. After winning election in 1997, he was removed again after a military coup in 1999 and lived in exile for eight years. 

Sharif received a 10-year sentence in July on charges revolving around family property in London. He was in the British capital at the time of the conviction as his wife received cancer treatment, and was arrested and imprisoned upon his return to Pakistan.

He was released in September after a court suspended his sentence pending an appeal hearing.

Pakistan's current prime minister, Imran Khan, has vowed to tackle endemic corruption in the country since being elected to the post in July.

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Affluent upbringing

Imran Khan was born in Lahore in 1952, the son of a civil engineer. Khan grew up with his four sisters in a relatively affluent part of the city. He received a privileged education, first in his hometown and then in Worcester, England. It was there that Khan's love and talent for the game of cricket became evident. In 1972, he enrolled at Oxford University to study politics and economics.

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Pakistan cricket's blue-eyed boy

Khan played cricket throughout his time in England and after returning to his native Pakistan in 1976, he quickly became a regular in the national team. By 1982, he was awarded the captain's armband. Khan enjoyed an illustrious career and was regarded by many as one of the best all-rounders in the world.

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World champion

The ultimate high point of Khan's sporting career saw him captain Pakistan to the 1992 Cricket World Cup in Melbourne, Australia. As if his popularity couldn't get any bigger back home, Khan even took the winning wicket in the final against England.

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From playboy to (thrice) married man

Khan enjoyed hedonistic bachelor life and was a regular fixture on London's nightlife scene. However, in 1995, at age 42, he finally tied the knot to 21-year-old Jemima Goldsmith. During their nine-year marriage, the famous couple provided plenty of fodder for the British and Pakistani tabloids. Despite separating in 2004, Goldsmith has remained a vocal supporter of Khan's politics.

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Khan enters politics

Khan wasted little time after retiring from cricket in 1994. Just two years later he entered Pakistani politics and founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. However, his popularity was slow to carry over from cricket into politics. In the 1997 general elections, his PTI party failed to win a single seat.

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Political activist

Khan remained active in politics over the next decades. In 1999, he supported General Pervez Musharraf's military coup, only to later turn against Musharraf ahead of the 2007 presidential election. Khan was subsequently placed under house arrest and even spent a few days in prison. However, his supporter base continued to grow, and by 2013 he became a key candidate in the general elections.

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2013: Khan's political breakthrough

The PTI made substantial gains in the 2013 election, claiming 30 parliamentary seats and finishing second behind the Pakistan Muslim League. The party became the main opposition in the key provinces of Punjab and Sindh. However, its greatest feat was winning its first province in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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"Taliban Khan"

Khan has often been the butt of jokes for his pacifist stance towards terrorism in the region. He earned the moniker "Taliban Khan" for claiming that the only way to achieve peace with the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan was through negotiation. Khan was also a vocal critic of US drones strikes on Pakistan and has promised to disengage Pakistan from America's conflicts in the Middle East.

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Two more marriages

Since his divorce from Goldsmith in 2004, Khan has remarried twice. In January 2015, Khan announced his marriage to British-Pakistani journalist Reham Khanm although just 10 months later the couple said they were filing for divorce. In February 2018, Khan married his third wife, Bushra Manika (pictured front row, second from the left), whom he describes as his spiritual adviser.

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Making waves in 2018

By 2018, Khan's PTI were among the favorites going into the general election. Campaigning on a populist platform, Khan pledged to break away from Pakistan's corrupt legacy. His plans include a poverty reduction program similar to that seen in China. This would see the establishment of an "Islamic welfare state," the creation of 10 million jobs and construction of 5 million homes for the poor.

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Prime Minister Imran Khan

Khan completed his journey from all-star cricketer to political leader on July 26, 2018. With most votes counted, the PTI is expected win up to 119 seats in Pakistan's 272-seat parliament. "I started this struggle 22 years ago and today I have been given a chance to fulfill what I dreamed for the country," Khan said in a televised speech. "We will run Pakistan like it's never been run before."

dv/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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