LONDON: Former premier Nawaz Sharif on Friday said the prosecution failed to establish the ownership of the Avenfield flats but in the absence of relevant documents to disprove ownership, a...
LONDON: Former premier Nawaz Sharif on Friday said the prosecution failed to establish the ownership of the Avenfield flats but in the absence of relevant documents to disprove ownership, a presumption was established that he was the owner of the properties.
“I am honoured that all the allegations of corruption against me have not been proven, the prosecution failed to prove corruption case against me and this is what I have said all along that courts have been used to victimise me,” Nawaz said at a press conference here along with Maryam Nawaz to give his reaction on the Avenfield reference verdict by the accountability court.
Nawaz said he has been punished with the prison term of 10 years because he tried to turn the course of Pakistan’s 70-year history and refused to compromise on the fundamental rights of Pakistani voters.
Nawaz said he stands vindicated that the accountability court had confirmed that he was not involved in corruption, dishonesty or misconduct while in public office and that he was convicted on “assets beyond means” because of his politics and in order to teach him a lesson for refusing to take dictation.
“I promise that I will continue this struggle until Pakistanis are free of the chains that they are kept in for saying the truth,” Nawaz said.
The former prime minister revealed that he had been offered a deal of leaving Pakistan in return for the end of his trial over alleged corruption. “Messages were sent to me to settle abroad with my daughter, not come back to Pakistan,” he revealed, adding that a few months back while he was in London to be with his cancer-patient wife Kulsoom Nawaz, he was offered a deal to stay in London but he refused the deal.
“I was told that just stay in London, don’t come back and the cases will go away,” he said. “I said no to the deal as that would have compromised my politics and my stance for the rights of Pakistanis. I could have easily chosen that path but I refused,” he said.
Nawaz Sharif announced that he was returning to Pakistan to face prison and didn’t fear going behind the bars.
“I am coming back. I have been in prison before for 14 months in 1999 in a fake plane hijacking case. Like that fake conviction, this is another fake conviction,” said Nawaz.
He said that it was his desire to speak to Begum Kulsoom Nawaz before taking the plane back to Pakistan. “It is my desire to speak to Begum Kulsoom, who is my life partner for 45 years, before returning to Pakistan,” he said.
Nawaz said that if the punishment for "demanding respect for the vote is jail, I am coming to face it" and that he will "not be a slave to those who violate their oath and the Constitution of Pakistan".
Nawaz said he was rendering a sacrifice for the people of Pakistan. “I am asking the nation to stand with me in this defining moment and not abandon me. Let’s change Pakistan, we have been waiting for this day for a long time, it is here now and there is no room for hesitation.”
Nawaz said that he will avail all legal avenues. "We are leading all the opinion polls," he said.
Commenting on the verdict, Maryam Nawaz said it was easy for her to go down the path of reconciliation like her contemporaries in politics "and not say anything against anyone and have a bright future", but she decided against it and decided to stand by her father. "I knew that I will not be welcomed with garlands for the issues I am raising my voice for. But someone had to light the first flame which we have," she maintained.
"My father's only crime is that he speaks the truth," she claimed. Maryam said that she has been sentenced by the court despite not holding any public office yet.
"It’s difficult to talk about law and Constitution in Pakistan right now," she lamented.
Our correspondents/agencies add from Lahore: The PML-N President, Shahbaz Sharif, terming the accountability court’s decision against Nawaz Sharif politically motivated and legally flawed, dubbed July 6 as a black day in the history of democratic Pakistan.
Addressing a press conference at the PML-N’s Model Town Secretariat just minutes after the verdict in the Avenfield reference was announced, he said, “The decision is politically motivated and legally flawed. It has legal loopholes and I will discuss some of that. The Pakistani people and the PML-N reject this decision. And this decision will be remembered as a black decision in history.”
He said it was a politically motivated decision against Nawaz and his daughter in a bid to influence results of the upcoming general elections. He said the election campaign and peaceful protest would continue.
"The verdict is unjust as no solid evidence has been presented and Nawaz Sharif's ownership of the Avenfield apartments has not been proven," he said.
"Nawaz is a man whose wife is facing a life and death situation -- even that was not given any consideration. Is this justice? Is this humanity?" he said and added that Begum Kulsoom Nawaz's illness was given a political colour by his opponents.
Shahbaz said Nawaz’s name did not appear in the Panama Papers and the case was built on weak grounds, as no evidence was found against him. “This case was heard by three benches of court after that the JIT prepared a report consisting of 10 volumes. Not a single legal document was presented in this case,” he added.
However, he said they would opt for all legal and constitutional options available for justice besides approaching people's court during the election campaign. "Though the NAB has declared its verdict, the people will give their verdict on July 25 through their votes” he said, adding, “I will go door-to-door to make people aware of this injustice. We will go through all the legal options to get justice. All the party candidates will carry on their election campaign and will protest peacefully. Justice should not be served on the basis of favouritism. Law should be equal to everyone.”
The former chief minister said many cases were pending with the NAB for years without any action. “The NAB did not act against PTI leader Babar Awan in the Nandipur case," he noted.
“Justice Rehmat Hussain Jaffrey in the Nandipur case said the commission report points towards Babar Awan as the person responsible and should, therefore, have been acted against — and yet no action was taken against him," he said.
Shahbaz said the Lahore High Court wrote a letter to the NAB about the Chiniot fraud in 2010. In that case, he said, the culprits committing corruption of Rs450 billion were given a clean chit.
He pointed out that Nawaz, despite the poor health of his wife, appeared before the accountability court for 109 times along with his daughter. He said there was no denying the fact that Nawaz made Pakistan an atomic power with the cooperation and prayers of the whole nation and defied all external pressures, inducements and threats.
He said that as the president of PML-N, he would visit every nook and cranny of the country to raise voice for justice. He asked the party workers, supports and especially the candidates contesting the general elections not to be disheartened and get their peaceful protest registered against the accountability court verdict during political gatherings.
Answering a question, Shahbaz rebutted the media reports that Nawaz had sought political asylum in London. The PML-N president also urged the Election Commission of Pakistan to provide a level-playing field to all candidates of political parties contesting the general elections.
Party leaders Khawaja Saad Rafique, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Hamza Shahbaz, Khawaja Ahmed Hassan and Khawaja Imran Nazir were present on the occasion.
In his reaction, Hamza Shahbaz said Nawaz was punished only for ensuring the development and prosperity of Pakistan and the people would reject the biased judgment.
Addressing party workers in NA-123 Friday night, he said Nawaz would be the winner on July 25 and Imran Khan was going to remain a loser like in the past. He said Imran would always remain a puppet in others’ hands, doing the politics of sit-in, dancing to the others’ tunes and staging protests. He predicted that the PML-N would clean sweep the July 25 polls and urged the party workers to persuade the voters to choose the right candidates.
Talking to The News, Senator Pervaiz Rashid termed the verdict as “Iqama 2”, as the former prime minister had been punished just because he refused to make a compromise on principles.
“The verdict was based on NAB law 9(5)a which is about assets beyond means, while the punishment was given under 9(4)a which is about proven corruption, kickbacks, etc. The court could not establish 9(4)a, but chose the sentencing in its accordance.”
Capt Safdar, one of the convicts in the NAB reference, described the decision as murder of justice.
Talal Chaudhry, expressing his deep reservations over the verdict, said it would certainly influence the upcoming general elections. “This verdict shows that the elections are not fair anymore, people will react on this decision through ballot,” said Talal.
“Everyone will see our protest over this verdict once the schedule of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s return is announced,” he added.
He said had Nawaz been only interested in power, he would have got it. “He is facing this situation because he insisted on ‘Vote ko Izzat Do’ instead of giving ‘Izzat’ to certain powers,” Talal remarked.