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Reprieve for Sharif family

Reprieve for Sharif family

Islamabad High Court on Wednesday suspended the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield case. They are likely to be released from the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi after the completion of formalities on Wednesday or Thursday. The Accountability Court in Islamabad in July had sentenced Sharif, Maryam and Safdar to 10, seven and two years in imprisonment after holding them guilty of owning four luxury flats in London in a disproportionate assets case. During the hearing, the two-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court accepted the appeals filed by the trio against the sentence given by the Accountability Court on July 6. The High Court also suspended the sentence awarded to the Sharif family by the Accountability Court for lack of evidence that proved that the Sharif family indeed owned the flats in question. "The NAB, after conducting a thorough investigation, couldn't bring any evidence of Nawaz Sharif's ownership of the Avenfield apartments. You want us to admit his ownership on mere presumption," High Court Justice Athar Minallah remarked. The Supreme Court in 2017 had disqualified Sharif from holding the Prime Minister's post in the Panama Papers case. Subsequently, he was barred from holding any public office including the party president's post. The Islamabad High Court's verdict comes as a big relief for the Sharif family who was on the receiving end of an overzealous judiciary. The court verdict giving the Sharif family the much-needed reprieve has come only a week after the death of Nawaz Sharif's wife Kulsoom Nawaz on September 11 in a London hospital and only days after her burial on September 14. Shairf, Maryam and Safdar were granted parole for the burial of Kulsoom Nawaz.

In the recently-held election for National Assembly, Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerged as the single largest party and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) came second. PTI has formed the government with the help of smaller parties and Independents, and the former cricket star Imran Khan has become the Prime Minister. There are widespread accusations that the Pakistani military rigged the elections in his favour. The accusations against the Pakistan military range from asking the media, especially the broadcast media, to shun news about PML-N and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) during the election campaign, forcing candidates to desert PML-N and PPP and contest the election as Independents, and largescale irregularities in the counting of votes. The Pakistani military has not responded to the accusations of rigging the polls as yet. During the election, the Sharif family was in jail and his brother Shahbaz Sharif oversaw the party affairs as the president of PML-N. They accepted the election results facilitating the formation of a new government. Though Sharif was barred from contesting the election, it was believed that his daughter Maryam would lead the election campaign. But since she too was in jail, she could not make her debut in electoral politics. However, by choosing to stay in the jail instead of being transferred to a guest house where better amenities were assured, she has shown her resilience and determination to fight back. Now that she is out of jail along with her father and husband, she is likely to reinvigorate the party and prepare for a long political battle. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was at loggerheads with the Pakistan military over a host of issues, the most important of them being his desire to improve relations with India. As the Prime Minister, Sharif was worried over Pakistan's isolation at the international level for its support to terrorism and making the country a safe haven for terrorists. Eradicating terrorism and its networks in Pakistan is a tough call as various wings of the Pakistan military are directly involved in grooming and helping terrorists with money and logistical support. For the Pakistani military, terrorists are strategic assets that can be deployed against enemy countries without being formally involved in any armed conflict. They have been used for decades against Afghanistan and India. Now, their roots have grown so deep in Pakistani psyche that thinking of a Pakistan without the extremists and jehadi is difficult, if not impossible. But the international community is more than ever committed to seeing that Pakistan stops sponsoring terrorism. The economic condition of Pakistan is extremely bad, with exports slowing down and unemployment rising at an alarming rate. The new Pakistan government has introduced a series of austerity measures to tide over the economic crisis that looms on the country. But to make the austerity measures to work effectively, the government needs to cut the budgetary allocation to important institutions such as the Pakistani military. This difficult task before the new government. For now, the Sharifs may watch how things pan out.

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