Nawaz sentenced to prison in Al-Azizia, acquitted in Flagship reference

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A court in Islamabad has jailed Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister of Pakistan, for seven years on corruption charges he says were politically motivated.

For many, the verdict in Sharif's case is a continuation of a systemic effort to undermine the politics of the former three-time prime minister in Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif party PML-N workers ahead of the verdict had gathered outside the accountability court in order to support their leader.

He appealed that sentence and was released on bail in September.

For now, the PTI appears to be the political victor of the decision: the prison sentence of Sharif and corruption related cases against other opposition political personalities will further dampen the efforts of the opposition political parties when it comes to any challenge to the ruling party's power.

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"Appeal is our right, we will protest but will remain peaceful", former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who had succeeded Sharif past year, told reporters outside the courthouse.

Sharif's sons are accused in all three references whereas daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only.

His daughter, Maryam, who some believed was Sharif's heir apparent, had her seven-year prison sentence suspended in September, as well.

The Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from politics for life over the allegations previous year, and directed an anti-corruption body to investigate three different charges regarding his family's properties and businesses.

According to Pakistan's anti-graft body, it will challenge the acquittal of Sharif, who was sent to jail a day before his birthday.

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Sharif was found guilty of corruption charges relating to the purchase of Al-Azizia Steel Mills where prosecutors alleged that the Sharif family misappropriated government funds to buy the mills. Since the court had reserved its judgement last week, the former ruling PML-N had been threatening to start a mass protest movement and disrupt parliamentary business if its leader was sent back to prison. He was first ousted from office in 1993 on suspicion of corruption. Sharif's second term as prime minister ended in 1999 after he was deposed by then army chief Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup.

An across the board accountability process against the corrupt was underway, he added.

Nawaz SharifSharif could not prove how he could have bought the Al-Azizia Steel Mill in Saudi Arabia with the sources of income he declared.

"I will not accept this decision as Nawaz Sharif will be convicted at any cost", he was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper. He claimed that the evidence and defence was the same in both the cases, adding that it is unusual for "Qatari to be halal in one and haram in other".

Today also marks Sharif's 69th birthday.

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