Pakistan court indicts ex-PM Sharif for corruption – official

ISLAMBAD, Pakistan – A Pakistani court indicted ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges spiralling from the Panama Papers leak, a senior government official said Thursday, October 19, in a case that could ultimately see the former leader jailed.

"The court also indicted Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam and his son-in-law in a corruption case related to their London properties," the official told the Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.

A Sharif representative entered a not guilty plea for the sacked premier, who is currently in London with his wife Kalsum as she undergoes cancer treatment.

Maryam also pleaded not guilty, brushing aside the decision as "baseless" as she left the court in Islamabad.  

"(The) charges are not only groundless, baseless (...) unfounded also frivolous and on top of that we are being denied our right to fair trial," Maryam said in a statement to the court seen by AFP.

In late July the Supreme Court sacked Sharif following an investigation into corruption allegations against his family, making him the 15th premier in Pakistan's 70-year history to be ousted before completing a full term.

The allegations against the prime minister stemmed from the Panama Papers leak last year, which sparked a media frenzy over the luxurious lifestyles and high-end London property portfolio owned by his family.

The indictment comes ahead of a general election due by the end of 2018, in which Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) will face a renewed offensive by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

The former premier last appeared before the anti-corruption court on October 2 before flying back to London. There was no indication if he planned to return to Pakistan to fight the charges.

Sharif has faced similar challenges in the past.

In 1993 he was sacked from his first term as premier for corruption, while in 1999 he was sentenced to life in prison after his second term in office ended with a military putsch. 

Following the coup he was allowed to go into exile in Saudi Arabia, returning in 2007 before becoming prime minister for a third time in 2013.

Last month his wife Kalsum won his former parliamentary seat during a heated by-election in Lahore, in a poll seen as a key test of the ruling party's popularity after Sharif's sacking.

After his ouster, Sharif led supporters from the capital Islamabad to his hometown Lahore in a days-long procession that brought thousands into the streets.

During the rally Sharif repeatedly blasted the court's move to oust him, saying the decision was an "insult" to Pakistanis. –