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.
It comes after he was ousted as prime minister by Pakistan's Supreme Court past year following a corruption investigation centered around the ownership of four United Kingdom flats in London's high-end Mayfair district.
In Friday's ruling, the court also sentenced Sharif's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, to seven years in a case stemming from documents leaked from a Panama law firm while her husband, Mohammad Safdar, got a year's sentence for giving false information to investigators. 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 a year ago.
The court says he and his family had failed to disclose the source of funds used to purchases luxurious London properties and had not reported them to tax authorities. The judge also ordered the Sharif family's London properties confiscated.
A political ally said Sharif would return to Pakistan from London to file an appeal, facing arrest on arrival just before the election, in which his party is in a close race with opposition figure Imran Khan's party. He denies drawing the monthly salary.
Sharif's political opponents hailed the verdict, saying it was the beginning of real "accountability of thieves".
"Justice has been massacred", Maryam's husband Safdar said after the verdict.
The military, which has ruled the nuclear-armed country for nearly half of its history, denies involvement in civilian politics. The longtime politician's first two terms in power ended abruptly under military pressure, the second time by outright coup.
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.
"Achieve your goal with your vote on July 25 and target those who set aside your decisions through conspiracies and fraud", he added, referring to the upcoming general elections.
The Avenfield case and Sharif's disqualification makes clear an attempt at election engineering by the powerful military to enhance the fortunes of the PTI and all the other extremist political parties - Lashkar-e-Taiba supported Milli Muslim League (through Allaha-u-Akbar Tehreek), Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan and ultra-conservative Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, all of which have entered the electoral arena this year seeking to benefit from the discrediting of the PML-N and PPP, with adequate propping up by Rawalpindi.
The Supreme Court agreed to investigate the Sharif family's finances after Khan threatened street demonstrations to protest graft.
Khan for his part greeted news of the verdict with jubilation at a campaign rally in the Swat valley in Pakistan's northwest. "Now robbers will not go into assemblies, but to jails", he told a roaring crowd of thousands.