Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif is out of jail. But how did he end up there?

  • 21 Sep 2018

Nawaz Sharif is the only Pakistani leader to have become the prime minister of the country three times. He has been previously removed from office by the presidency, a military coup and an accountability court. Can he come back again?

Nawaz Sharif gestures as he boards a Lahore-bound flight due for departure, at Abu Dhabi International Airport, UAE on Friday; July 13, 2018 Reuters ( Reuters )

Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister-turned-hijacker-turned-premier, who was convicted and sentenced by an accountability court on corruption charges earlier this year has been released on bail.

Sharif is the only Pakistani political leader to become prime minister of the country three times and allegations of corruption have followed him throughout his political career. 

His constitutional term was cut short all three times due to several reasons, as has been the fate of all of the prime ministers in the country's history.

Here's a look at the highs and the lows of his political journey:

Politics in the 1990s:

Sharif was elected prime minister for the first time in 1990. But in 1993, he was removed as prime minister by then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan over corruption allegations.

Nawaz Sharif purchased the Avenfield properties—which came back to haunt him in his latest tenure—through offshore accounts in the mid 1990s, in the period between his first and second term in office, according to the Panama Papers leaks.

Sharif's second turn as prime minister began momentously as Pakistan successfully tested nuclear weapons one year into Sharif's tenure in 1998, but that goodwill didn't last.

Just one year later he was overthrown in a military coup by General Pervez Musharraf, the country’s fourth army takeover since independence in 1947. 

Nawaz spent around eight years in exile in Saudi Arabia during the country's rule under military dictator-turned-president Musharraf.

Last stand?

Nawaz Sharif was elected prime minister for the third time in 2013 but his third stint in power was not smooth sailing either. 

By then, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had emerged as a serious player in Pakistan's political arena.

Khan staged long sit-in in Islamabad between August and December 2014, partially paralysing a district in the capital city demanding Sharif's removal over allegations of corruption and election rigging. 

During the sit-in, the PTI leader teased crowds at rallies that a “third umpire” might dismiss Sharif, a cricket metaphor widely interpreted as a suggestion that the army might intervene.

Veteran politician Javed Hashmi, who had left the Sharif's party to join the PTI in 2011, turned rogue against Khan's party claiming that the sit-in was backed by Gen (r) Shuja Pasha, a former chief of the military's powerful intelligence agency the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI.

The rigging allegations against Sharif were dismissed by a judicial commission a few months later.

Panama Papers and the downfall:

Then, on April 3, 2016 the Panama Papers leaks revealed details of assets belonging to Nawaz Sharif and his family, and that offshore accounts had been used to purchase luxurious properties abroad.

Sharif denied any wrongdoing.

The Panama Papers spurred the Supreme Court of Pakistan to set up a judicial commission to probe corruption allegations against Sharif in 2016. 

In April 2017, the Supreme Court observed that the Sharifs had failed to justify their offshore accounts and the trail of money related to their properties abroad and ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the assets of the Sharif family within 60 days. 

Formed on the instructions of the apex court a joint investigation team—that included members of the country's civilian and military intelligence agencies—concluded its investigation into the case, which is now known as the 'Avenfield reference,' by July 2017. 

The Supreme Court declared Sharif disqualified from office for not declaring an income of $2,700 from a company in the United Arab Emirates, which was not actually part of the original Panama Papers revelations. 

The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to open a criminal trial into the ownership of the London flats along with several other Panama Papers revelations.

The Sharifs denied any wrongdoing and their counsel explained that the purpose of the arrangement was solely to secure an iqama—a UAE work visa—which would allow the then prime minister easy access to the Gulf state "in his years in exile" and that Sharif had never withdrawn a salary from the account.

Nawaz Sharif, his sons Hassan and Hussain as well as daughter Maryam and son-in-law MNA Capt (retd) Safdar were indicted in the Avenfield flats case in October 2017.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled in April 2018 that Sharif's disqualification is for life, under the controversial  Article 62 (i)(f).

The former prime minister claimed he was being treated unfairly, and that forces are at work to undermine democracy as part of a plan to have the PTI emerge victorious over the PML-N in the 2018 general elections.

The accountability court announced a verdict on July 6, 2018 and sentenced Nawaz Sharif to 10 years in jail while daughter Maryam Safdar and son-in-law Capt (r) Safdar were given seven and one year jail terms respectively.

General elections in July this year resulted in the PTI coming into power. Nawaz Sharif's party entered the opposition after becoming the second largest party while bagging less than half of the seats it had won in 2013.

Fast forward to this week, and the Islamabad High Court gave its verdict on the appeals filed by the Sharif family: all sentences against the Sharif family have been suspended.

Nawaz Sharif and his family are now out on bail. Can the Sharifs rise again?