Nawaz vows to fight cor­rup­tion charges

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

IS­LAM­ABAD: Ousted Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif vowed to fight graft ac­cu­sa­tions af­ter he ap­peared be­fore an anti-cor­rup­tion court on Tues­day, kick­ing off a trial threat­en­ing his party’s chances at the next gen­eral elec­tion due in mid-2018.

Re­turn­ing to Pak­istan fol­low­ing a month abroad, Sharif lashed out against the ju­di­ciary af­ter briefly ap­pear­ing be­fore a Na­tional Ac­count­abil­ity Bureau (NAB) court in Is­lam­abad on three charges. He did not en­ter a plea. “I am fight­ing base­less cases based on lies and also get­ting pun­ished,” he told re­porters.

TV chan­nels re­ported that Sharif was sched­uled to be for­mally charged on Oc­to­ber 2, about two months af­ter his dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion by the Supreme Court for not declar­ing a small source of in­come that he de­nied re­ceiv­ing.

A Supreme Court-ap­pointed panel has also al­leged Sharif fam­ily’s wealth far ex­ceeds its le­gal in­come. Sharif, who re­turned from Lon­don on Mon­day, has por­trayed his dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion as ef­forts to sub­vert the will of the elec­torate.

“I hope that there might be some jus­tice still alive,” Sharif said.

Sharif says the cor­rup­tion claims against the fam­ily are po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, while his al­lies, in­clud­ing daugh­ter and heirap­par­ent Maryam, have hinted Pak­istan’s pow­er­ful mil­i­tary had a hand in his top­pling. The mil­i­tary de­nies any such ac­tion.

Two of Sharif ’s sons and Maryam are also due to ap­pear be­fore a NAB court, as well as Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ishaq Dar, a long-time ally who is married into the Sharif fam­ily.

“It’s a good thing that fi­nally NAB and such in­sti­tu­tions are hold­ing rich and pow­er­ful to ac­count,” said Shafqat Mah­mood, a se­nior mem­ber of the op­po­si­tion Pak­istan Tehreek-e-In­saf (PTI) party.

PTI, led by crick­eter-turned­politi­cian Im­ran Khan who doggedly pushed the Supreme Court into launch­ing the cor­rup­tion probe into Sharif, has called for an early elec­tion but it is un­likely the gov­ern­ment will agree to that.

Sharif ’s re­turn to Pak­istan quashed grow­ing spec­u­la­tion that his ab­sence was the start of an­other pe­riod in ex­ile for the veteran leader whose three stints as prime min­is­ter were all cut short, in­clud­ing one by a mil­i­tary coup in 1999.

An­a­lysts say Sharif ’s re­turn to Pak­istan was in large part due to fears of de­fec­tions within the PML-N, a com­mon oc­cur­rence in a na­tion where politi­cians switch al­le­giances ahead of polls de­pend­ing on which way the po­lit­i­cal winds are blow­ing. Sharif kept con­trol of PML-N af­ter his ouster and in­stalled loy­al­ist Shahid Khaqan Ab­basi as prime min­is­ter. Full story @ time­so­fo­man.com/world

- AP/PTI

BRIEF­ING: Pak­istan’s for­mer prime min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif, right, ad­dresses a news con­fer­ence with party fel­lows, in Is­lam­abad, Pak­istan, on Tues­day.

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