For activists, ex Prime Minister Sharif’s ten-year sentence is part of the fight for power
by Shafique Khokhar

In addition to the former prime minister, his daughter Mariam and her husband were also sentenced. The case involves the purchase of a luxury residence in London. For some educators, activists and journalists, the decision is political, designed to crush their party and favour challenger Imran Khan. Elections are scheduled for 25 July.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The Accountability Court, which deals with corruption cases, on Friday sentenced Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, to ten years in prison and fined him 1.29 billion rupees (US$ 10.6 million).

The former prime minister was disqualified from holding office last year as a result of the revelations from the Panama Papers over the use of funds from offshore companies to buy luxury properties in London.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Pakistani activists complain that the decision is politically motivated. The ultimate goal is to remove Nawaz's party from the upcoming elections on 25 July to the benefit of his rival Imran Khan.

The court also convicted his daughter Maryam Nawaz – considered his political heir – to seven years in prison for forgery and fined her US$ 2.6 million. Her husband, Captain Safdar Awan, was given a one-year prison sentence for fraud.

In addition, the court issued an order to seal the property in question, suggesting the government adopt legislation to bring plundered money back to the country.

According to several educators, activists, journalists and members of the left-wing parties, the sentence is "revenge" against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, (PML-N), its founder and main leaders.

"The imprisonment will have repercussions on the next elections, at least in two directions,” said Hamza Arshad, teacher and journalist.

“The first one is that it will give a massive boost to political rivals, in particular Imran Khan. Now he can tell his supporters, with even greater conviction, that Sharif's family plundered the country." Khan leads Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The activist believes that the former sports champion's party will benefit the most from the sentence, whilst the left-leaning Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) "will disappear" and the PML-N will suffer "further decline".

The second aspect, he continues, is that "Sharif and Mariam will have to abandon their compromise attitude and ally with the extreme fringes of the party, such as Saad Rafique, and push forward an aggressive narrative. In all likelihood, this choice will not help win the election, but will help keep the party together and make it a necessary force on the left."

For activist Rojar Noor Alam, this "is another black day for Pakistan, which shows that it is only a war for the throne, and not accountability. The courts are controlled by specific groups. We are heading towards a black hole and there is no way out of it."

"It is a political maneuver to ensure the control of the country without carrying out a coup,” he said. “Coups d'état are now out of fashion and are not appreciated by the international community. We are not expecting free and fair elections. In the future we will have a puppet government.”

Activist Zafar Iqbal agrees. For him, the sentence is "political victimisation. Many other cases are pending, but only the PML-N is the target.”

"The timing of the conviction,” he noted, “in parallel with the pre-electoral debate, will affect the morale of the party and its militants, whilst rivals will exploit this situation for propaganda purposes.”

“Now non-state actors could ruin peace and order. The people of Pakistan will lose confidence in politics and democracy ".