Pakistan court acquits former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 37-year-old ‘bribe’ case

The 73-year-old three-time former Prime Minister’s acquittal may allow him to contest and lead PML-N in the next general election scheduled later this year.

June 25, 2023 04:25 pm | Updated 10:00 pm IST - Lahore

File photo of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

File photo of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. | Photo Credit: AP

A Pakistani accountability court has acquitted former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a 37-year-old case alleging that he transferred a “precious state land” here in the capital of Punjab province to one of the country’s leading media barons as a “bribe”.

Saturday's ruling came days after the federal government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif, made crucial amendments to laws to lift the life-long ban on politicians.

The 73-year-old three-time former Prime Minister’s acquittal may allow him to contest and lead PML-N in the next general election scheduled later this year.

Mr. Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in 2017 by the Supreme Court. In 2018, he became ineligible to hold public office for life after a Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case.

“An Accountability Court in Lahore acquitted three-time premier Nawaz Sharif in a case related to illegal transfer of 54-kanal (6.75 acres) precious state land to Jang/Geo media group owner Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman in Lahore while he was the chief minister of Punjab 37 years ago,” a court official told PTI.

“Judge Rao Abdul Jabbar acquitted him after the country’s anti-graft body (National Accountability Bureau) informed the court that after recent amendments to its law (by the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition government), the case does not fall in its preview,” the official said.

The former Prime Minister's lawyer contended that NAB had malicious intentions while filing the case against his client, who had no involvement in plot allotment.

The court has already acquitted Shakil-ur-Rehman in this case.

He said the acquittal of the principal accused proved that no offence was committed.

Therefore, he argued that keeping the proceedings pending against any other accused, including a proclaimed offender, after the acquittal of the prime accused was of no use.

The judge admitted the arguments of the counsel and acquitted Mr. Nawaz Sharif in the case.

NAB's earlier charge sheet accused Nawaz Sharif, who was also the chairman of Lahore Development (LDA) in 1986, of misusing his authority and rendering undue benefit to Rehman by approving the exemption of 54 precious plots measuring one kanal each in a single block (compact form) situated at canal bank H- Block of M A Jauhar Town, Lahore.

NAB alleged the accused caused a loss of Rs 143 million to the national exchequer through the allotment of the land.

Mr. Nawaz Sharif, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supreme leader, has been living in self-exile in the United Kingdom since November 2019.

Before his departure to London on a four-week bail by the Lahore High Court on medical grounds, Sharif was serving a seven-year jail term in the Al-Azizia Mills corruption case.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief and ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan alleged that former army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had manoeuvred Sharif's ouster from jail and later struck a deal with him.

The PML-N says its supreme leader will return to Pakistan once the date of the general elections is announced.

Elections in the country are due in October as the tenure of the incumbent government ends on August 13.

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