A Pakistani court on Friday ordered jail terms for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter on corruption charges, in a decision likely to undermine their party's bid to seek another term in national elections on July 25.
The anti-graft court ruled in the capital Islamabad that the family bought properties in London with the money plundered from Pakistan in the 1990s during Sharif's one of three stints in power.
The court announced the decision after nine months of trial in one of three corruption cases against the family.
Sharif was handed 10 years of jail and a fine of £8mn ($10.5mn), said Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, prosecutor for the anti-graft watchdog.
Sharif's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, also accused in the graft case, was sentenced to jail for seven years, which means she can't contest the elections, Abbasi added. She will also have to pay a £2mn fine.
Both Sharif and his daughter are in London to take care of the former premier's wife, who is undergoing treatment for cancer.
Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party said he would immediately return and surrender to the authorities.
Sharif's son-in-law Mohamed Safdar was sentenced to one year in jail. The family has the right to appeal the sentence in the higher court.
Political analyst Irfan Shehzad said the decision could either undermine Sharif's family politics, or give it a boost, depending on how the former premier handles the setback.
"If he stands up and face the jail, then there are chances that a huge wave of sympathy will sweep his party to the victory," said Shehzad from the Institute of Policy Studies think tank.
Sharif remains Pakistan's most popular leader despite his removal by the Supreme Court last year, and the trial against his family.
The decision, just weeks ahead of the elections, has reinforced doubts the country's powerful military was colluding with the judiciary to prevent Sharif's party from seeking another term.
Sharif, known as an advocate for civilian supremacy in a country marred by years of violence by Islamist militants and political upheavals, has rough relations with the military and the judiciary.
All his three terms in power ended prematurely, once through a direct military coup.
"This looks to be part of political engineering to undermine our party," said Shehbaz Sharif, the former leader's younger brother, who now leads the party.
At least 4,000 police and hundreds of soldiers from the paramilitary Rangers force were deployed in Islamabad to cope with possible rioting, local official Mohamed Naeem told dpa.
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