On Thursday, a court in Pakistan indicted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and her husband, and his two sons on corruption charges. The family has called the proceedings, launched by the National Accountability Bureau, a conspiracy.
"The charges are not only groundless, baseless, but unfounded, also frivolous, and on top of that we are being denied our right to fair trial," Maryam Nawaz, Sharif's daughter, said in a statement. She pleaded not guilty, and Sharif's two sons, both British nationals, argue that Pakistani laws do not apply to them. In Britain with his wife, Kulsoom Nawaz, who is undergoing cancer treatment, Sharif sent a representative to the court.
Maryam Nawaz called the charges "a repeat of 1999" — an allusion to a coup that ousted her father and the corruption investigations that General Pervez Musharraf ordered into Sharif, who advocates for civilian rule. A previous term in power also ended prematurely at the hands of the military through covert means.
Wealth unaccounted for
The 67-year-old Sharif resigned on July 28 following a Supreme Court investigation into corruption allegations against his family after it emerged that he had failed to declare a source of income. The allegations against the prime minister stem from the 2016 Panama Papers leak, which sparked a media frenzy over the luxurious lifestyles and high-end London property portfolio owned by his family.
The Supreme Court accused Maryam Nawaz and her brothers of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of offshore companies used to buy the London flats. The family claims to have obtained the properties as settlement for investments with Qatar's royal family in the 1980s.
The indictment comes ahead of a 2018 general election in which Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League will face a renewed offensive by the cricketer-cum-politician Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. The Muslim League re-elected Sharif as party leader earlier in October, after parliament approved a bill allowing officials disqualified from public office by courts to hold party offices. The move angered opposition parties, which accuse Sharif of continuing to rule through a "puppet" prime minister: his replacement, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
Opening arguments in Sharif's corruption trial will begin on October 26. The Supreme Court has ordered the trial concluded within six months.
mkg/ng (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)