Nawaz Sharif announces return, says being punished for demanding respect for vote

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A Pakistani court has sentenced former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, Nawaz Sharif, to ten years imprisonment in a corruption case related to the acquisition of luxury flats in London. The verdict was delivered in the absence of Sharif, 68, who is in London attending to his wife Kulsoom Nawaz who was diagnosed with throat cancer previous year.

Maryam Sharif, too, took to Twitter to vent her outrage at the sentences she and her father received: "This is a very small punishment for firmly standing in front of unseen forces", she said, according to a translation by Pakistan's Dawn news agency.

In compliance to the Supreme Court order of July 28, 2017, which ousted the three-time prime minister, declaring him "dishonest" under Article 62 (1) (f) of Pakistan's constitution, three corruption references were filed by Pakistan's National Accountability Court (NAB) in September against the Sharifs and a fourth against their relative, ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar.

FILE PHOTO: Nawaz Sharif (R), former Prime Minister and leader of Pakistan Muslim League, gestures to supporters as his daughter Maryam Nawaz looks on during party's workers convention in Islamabad, Pakistan June 4, 2018. He denies drawing the monthly salary.

The PML-N has termed the trial political victimisation.

Coming so close to the election, which is due on July 25, the verdict is bound to affect PML-N's campaign of which Maryam was the centerpiece. He said Nawaz Sharif has served the country three times as Prime Minister and what he got in return was a black judgment.

Sharif had denounced the court proceedings against him as politically motivated and a judicial witch-hunt, often suggesting the hidden hand of the military was to blame.

He said the decision was also an effort to influence the upcoming elections.

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The military, which has ruled the nuclear-armed country for nearly half of its history, denies involvement in civilian politics.

Sharif has a history of conflict with the military even though his political career was initially nurtured by military dictator Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s. The convictions are a huge setback to the ruling PML-N, which has accused the country's powerful military establishment of conspiring against the party by forcing its candidates to switch sides and join the Opposition or contest elections as independents.

Sharif also said he hadn't yet read the verdict but it reportedly stated that the prosecution couldn't prove any allegation of corruption, and this was a "matter of pride for me".

Khan is running on a socially conservative, anti-corruption platform.

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In addition to the sentencing, Sharif and Maryam have been fined £8 million and £2 million respectively.

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He said he would continue his political struggle from behind bars if necessary, and urged the people to "break the chains by exercising their right to vote on July 25".

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