Asia - pacific

Pakistan’s ex-PM accused of illegally allotting land

Investigators accuses Nawaz Sharif of 'illegally' allotting shrine's land to politician in 1986 when he was chief minister

15.01.2019
Pakistan’s ex-PM accused of illegally allotting land

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan

Testing times are not over for Pakistan’s incarcerated former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a fresh investigation has accused him of “illegally” allotting a shrine’s land to a local politician in 1986 when he was the chief minister of northeastern Punjab province.

An investigation team formed by the Supreme Court last month submitted its report to a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar in capital Islamabad on Tuesday.

The report accused the three-time premier of allotting a huge piece of land attached to the shrine of famous Sufi Baba Fariduddin Ganj Shakar in Pakpattan district of Punjab to a local politician.

The investigation team recommended that the land in question be retrieved and a criminal proceedings be initiated against the jailed premier.

The latest development came a day after Supreme Court upheld the suspension of the Sharif’s jail term handed down last July in the Panama Papers case.

Sharif, who is already serving a seven-year term after being convicted in another corruption case last month, has denied the fresh charge.

The top court gave a two-week deadline to Sharif and the Punjab government to submit their responses to the investigation report.

Sharif has been convicted in two of a total of three corruption cases against him, and exonerated in the third.

Convictions

In the first case, Sharif, 69, was sentenced last July to 10 years in jail in a corruption case by an accountability court in the capital Islamabad, but the Islamabad High Court suspended the conviction in September.

His daughter and potential political heir Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar had also been sentenced to seven years and one year in prison respectively in the same case. The two are on bail.

In the second case -- known as Al Azizia -- Sharif got seven years in jail for owning assets beyond known income sources in December. Sharif also challenged the second conviction in the Islamabad High Court, which will start the hearing on his appeal this week.

Last September, at the directive of the Supreme Court, the National Accountability Bureau accused Sharif of corruption by making assets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the name of his underage sons during his first term as premier in the early 1990s.

Sharif, however, denied the charges, and accused the "establishment" -- a term meant to designate the country's powerful army -- and a section of the judiciary of "targeting" him and his family.

In July 2017, he was disqualified by the Supreme Court over the Panama Papers scandal, which also led to the filing of the three corruption cases. Not long after, the top court also barred him from holding the leadership of his party.

Sharif served as premier in 1990-1992, 1997-1999, and 2013-2017, unable to complete even a single five-year term. His two previous governments were dismissed over corruption charges and through a bloodless military coup in 1992 and 1999, respectively.

His younger brother, and three-time chief minister of Punjab -- the country's most populous province -- Shehbaz Sharif is already in NAB custody over a housing scam. Shehbaz's son, and the opposition leader in Punjab Assembly, Hamza Shehbaz is also facing inquiries in connection with multiple corruption cases.

Despite arrests and a visible opposition from the country's powerful military establishment, the Sharif's PML(N) came in second in general elections last July, securing 82 seats in the 342-member lower house.

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