Former Pakistan PM Sharif appeals prison sentence ahead of elections
Islamabad - Pakistan's jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appealed his 10-year prison sentence on Monday, his party spokeswoman said, just days after returning to the country ahead of parliamentary elections later this month.
Violence has escalated in the run-up to the balloting, with horrific attacks over the weekend killing 153 people, including a provincial assembly candidate during an election rally in southwestern Baluchistan province.
Sharif was sentenced in absentia on July 6 over his family's purchases of luxury apartments in London. If the judge grants the appeal, Sharif could be released on bail, pending his retrial.
Maryam Aurangzeb, a spokeswoman for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, said the appeal was filed Monday with the Islamabad High Court. "Our lawyers are seeking to overturn of the verdict against Nawaz Sharif and his family on legal grounds," she said.
Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar were also sentenced in the same trial, to seven years and one year, respectively. On Friday, Sharif and his daughter returned home from London, where Sharif's wife is critically ill in hospital, following a heart attack last month.
In election-related violence, gunmen on Sunday night opened fire at the election headquarters of the secular Awami National Party in the town of Chaman in Baluchistan, wounding former senator Daud Achakzai who was campaigning for Zumurak Khan, a contender for a seat in the provincial legislature.
On Friday in Baluchistan's Mastung district, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed Siraj Raisani, a candidate for the provincial assembly and 148 others during an election rally.
So far more than 170 people have died in election-related attacks, underscoring the security threat ahead of the vote.
Pakistanis will go to polls on July 25 to elect 342 members of the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, which is the country's law-making body, and four provincial legislatures.
Sharif, who was ousted from office by the Supreme Court last July over corruption, is not running in the elections and has been banned from holding any office for the rest of his life. His Muslim League Party is still a leading contender, hoping to win a majority of the seats in parliament and form the next government.
However, the Muslim League Party is facing tough competition from the party of leading opposition candidate Imran Khan, a former cricket star. Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaf party also has high expectations of winning the vote and having him become the next prime minister.