The Avenfield case reached a verdict on July 6. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and her husband, Captain (retd) Safdar, were sentenced to 10, seven, and a year of imprisonment, respectively. The Accountability Court also ordered that the apartments in question be seized by the government. Nawaz’s sons, Hassan and Hussain, were declared offenders for their absence from the proceedings, and non-bailable arrest warrants were issued against them. This move was applauded around the country, and it seems that justice has truly been done. These convictions were made under NAB ordinance, Section 9(a)(v) which states: “A holder of a public office, or any other person, is said to commit or to have committed the offence of corruption and corrupt practice if he or any of his dependents or benamidar owns, possesses, or has [acquired] right or title in any assets or holds irrevocable power of attorney in respect of any assets or pecuniary resources disproportionate to his known sources of income, which he cannot reasonably account for, or maintains a standard of living beyond that which is commensurate with his sources of income”. The Sharif family, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s leadership and supporters, scholars and opinion makers, have been beating their chests over this judgement, calling it politically motivated accountability. Making conspiracy theories involving state institutions is easier than proving one’s innocence in the court of law with credible evidence. Ever since the arcane scheme of accumulation of international assets was exposed by the Panama leaks, the Sharif family have been throwing dust into the eyes of the public saying they have been subjected to political victimisation. A proper case of graft and greed is being presented as a political case. It is encouraging that the public can no longer be hoodwinked in the name of a victim narrative, as the majority in the country has expressed their satisfaction with NAB’s judgement. Credit for this state of mind goes to the independent print and electronic media, who have exposed the corrupt elements in our political system. However, there seem to be some legal hurdles ahead, as far as seizing the properties in question is concerned. This is because the proclaimed offenders, Nawaz’s sons, are both British nationals and cannot be extradited. While the political class and bureaucracy finally have to account for their corrupt practices, it is unfortunate that judges and the armed forces are not part of the equation. There is a longstanding public perception that they both have immunity from accountability Besides, Britain has long been the beneficiary of black money, especially in tax havens in British Virgin Islands. Why should it bother with money being invested in their country, regardless of its origins? During the investigation against the Sharif family, the British government gave a cold shoulder to Pakistan when they asked for assistance, and they also refused to cooperate in bringing Altaf Hussain to justice. Nonetheless, some legal experts have reasoned that court decrees like the Avenfield case can be accepted abroad. This calls for earnest efforts on part of NAB and Pakistan’s government. Seasoned politician and barrister Aitzaz Ahsan believes that British will comply in this matter, and an investigation on the part of British government is also possible. Very recently, UK-based newspaper, Daily Mail, carried a news story on the properties owned by the Sharif family, titled “Penthouse Pirates”. They reported that, “The family has huge profits from other sites which have not figured in court -such as the swankiest address of all, at one Hyde Park place,which Nawaz Sharif’s son Hassan sold for £43 million. Untangling the web of the Sharifs’ British real estate properties is not easy. The properties are registered with a bewildering network of companies, trusts and bank accounts.” The same paper said the Sharifs used dirty money to purchase properties, including the Avenfield flats. This is why the pressure is building on Britain, as even Transparency International has asked them to act against the proclaimed offenders, and to stop their soil from being used as a safe haven for the corrupt. The Accountability Court has done a commendable job of dragging the corrupt to the docket. As Frederic Bastiat said, “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorises it and a moral code that glorifies it.” Additionally, the noose also seems to be tightening for former president Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur, in what is allegedly believed to be the biggest money-laundering case in Sindh. One hopes this case will also soon reach its logical end. However, while the political class and bureaucracy finally have to account for their corrupt practices, it is unfortunate that judges and the armed forces are not part of the equation. There is a longstanding public perception that they both have immunity from accountability, for some reason. But this must stop, as selective accountability will bring in its wake both political and institutional polarisation. Corruption has eaten away at Pakistan and the resources-rich country is now trapped in a circular debt thanks to the incompetence, economic imprudence and financial misappropriation by those at the helm. Our dear homeland needs to be freed from these predators. While the accountability courts and state investigative structures are doing their work, we, the people, should be doing our bit by holding electable candidates accountable for their corrupt practices and making sure that they are not voted to power again. Let those who have accumulated assets while grabbing morsels from our mouths be punished on voting day, and instead be replaced by parliamentarians that are dedicated to working for change. The writer is an Educationist and Freelance Contributor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, July 16th 2018.