Mon, Jul 23, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Aide to Pakistani ex-PM jailed for life before election

STRONG ARM:The timing of the arrest, in a case dating back eight years, suggested to critics that the military might be trying to skew the contest in favor of Imran Khan

Reuters, ISLAMABAD

Independent Pakistani legislator candidate Ayaz Memon Motiwala, 42, holds a Pakistani national flag as he lies partially submerged in garbage at a dump during an election rally in Karachi.

Photo: AFP

A Pakistani anti-narcotics court on Saturday handed a life sentence to an aide of jailed former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif for misuse of a key drug-making chemical, a government prosecutor said days ahead of divisive general elections on Wednesday.

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 has accused the country’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 500kg 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 former Pakistani prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

Sharif, a three-time prime minister, was last year removed from office by the Supreme Court, this month sentenced 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 that the court ruling, which was delivered an hour before midnight, was “discriminatory.”

Sharif’s past five years in government have been characterized 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 that the military is working to skew the contest in favor of Sharif’s main opponent Imran Khan, who has described 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 Justice Movement (PTI), with the Pakistan Peoples Party of slain former Pakistani 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.

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