Pakistan court jails aide of former prime minister ahead of election
ISLAMABAD - Reuters
A Pakistani anti-narcotics court has jailed for life an aide of jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for misuse of a key drug-making chemical, a government prosecutor said three days ahead of a divisive general election.
The conviction takes the aide, Hanif Abbasi, out of the race, the latest blow to Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, which accuses Pakistan’s powerful military of influencing the judiciary to deny it a second term.
Private television channel 92 News broadcast images of police and paramilitary troops arresting Abbasi at the court, amid a protest by workers of his PML-N party, who broke some courthouse windows.
In a case dating from 2010, Abbasi was accused of selling in the drug market 500 kilograms of a misappropriated quota of the chemical ephedrine, used to make methamphetamines, prosecutor Mustafa Satti told the channel.
“Our anti-narcotics court announced today that the charges against Hanif Abbasi were proved,” Satti said. “He is sentenced to life in prison, while the other seven accused have been acquitted.”
The seven acquitted include the son of another former prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani.
Sharif, a three-time prime minister, was removed from office by the Supreme Court last year, sentenced this month to 10 years in prison for corruption, and arrested upon his return home from London on July 13.
His brother Shehbaz, who has taken the reins as party president, said the court ruling, delivered an hour before midnight, was “discriminatory.”
Sharif’s past five years in government have been characterised by discord with the military, which has ruled Pakistan for nearly half its 71-year history.
His arrest has shaken up an election campaign riven by accusations the military is working to skew the contest in favour of his main opponent Imran Khan, who describes Sharif as a “criminal” deserving no support.
The military has denied any involvement in politics.
National polls indicate a close race between the PML-N and Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, or Pakistan Justice Movement), with the Pakistan Peoples’ Party of slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in third place.
In the election, Abbasi would have faced Khan’s close aide Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, who is allied with the PTI.