A turbulent winter (December, 1999)

A turbulent winter (December, 1999)
This is a photograph of Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif at the entrance of an anti-terrorism court in Karachi in December 1999. This was the second time Nawaz Sharif had been deposed as prime minister and he was tried for ‘kidnapping, attempted murder, hijacking and terrorism.’

The anti-terrorism court found Sharif guilty of hijacking and terrorism, but cleared him of attempted murder and kidnapping. He was spared the death penalty. Shahbaz and five former senior government officials were acquitted. The defendants had denied all charges.

Sharif’s lawyers immediately announced that they would appeal against the verdict and it looked like the end of the political career of a man twice elected prime minister. Kulsoom Sharif, his wife, had said at the time that he was the victim of a “personal vendetta” by Pakistan’s military leader General Pervez Musharraf and accused the judge of delivering a verdict written by someone else.

“My husband is innocent. He has done nothing wrong. This is a politically motivated judgment under pressure. Only my husband was targeted. That is what they wanted. Such a judgment will make the nation hang its head in shame,” she said.

This trial led first to his conviction and a life sentence and subsequently to the agreement under which the Sharif family remained exiled in Saudi Arabia for about a decade.

The verdict provoked little reaction on the streets of Pakistan. Public demonstrations had been banned by Musharraf’s regime in advance of a brief visit from President Clinton, who had urged the military regime to show clemency towards its deposed ruler.

Maryam Nawaz said at the time that her father would become an even greater leader from jail.
“We were born in Pakistan and we will die in Pakistan,” she declared.