Pakistan court orders Sharifs’ release

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Islamabad, Sep 19 : In a huge relief to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar, the Islamabad High Court on Wednesday suspended their prison sentences in a corruption case and ordered their release.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb gave the judgment on petitions filed by three challenging the July verdict against them in the Avenfield case, Geo News reported.

The reference pertained to the Sharifs’ purchase of four upmarket flats in Avenfield House, London. The three were convicted by an anti-corruption court in Pakistan of not being able to prove the source of assets used to purchase the properties.

Sharif, Maryam and Safdar had been sentenced to 11 years, eight years and one year respectively.

“We accept the petitioners’ pleas seeking a suspension in their sentences,” Justice Minallah said, adding that the National Accountability Bureau, Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog, was unable to prove a financial link between Sharif and the apartments in question.

Ordering their release, the judges directed the three to submit bail bonds worth Rs 0.5 million each.

The sentences will remain suspended till the final adjudication of the appeals filed by the petitioners, according to the report.

A large number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, including its President Shehbaz Sharif, leaders Pervaiz Rashid and Khurram Dastgir, were present in the courtroom and cheered as the judgment was announced.

Following the judgment, Senator Chaudhary Tanvir submitted bail bonds for the three at the deputy registrar’s office.

According to jail officials, they can be released on Thursday, provided the order was received prior to the expiration of lock-up time.