Ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday evening made it clear that he would return to Pakistan to "face prison".
Referring to the 10-year jail sentence handed to him by the accountability court in Islamabad, he said that he has been punished because he tried to turn the course of Pakistan's 70-year history.
Sharif, along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz — who also faces imprisonment upon her return to Pakistan — held a press conference in London hours after the verdict was announced against them in the Avenfield reference.
"I promise that I will continue this struggle until Pakistanis are free of the chains that they are kept in for saying the truth," Nawaz said.
"I will continue my struggle till the people of Pakistan are freed from the slavery imposed on them by some generals and judges," he added.
Nawaz remarked that if the punishment for "demanding respect for the vote is jail, I am coming to face it", adding that he will "not be a slave to those who violate their oath and the Constitution of Pakistan".
Nawaz, however, did not give any specific time or date for his return to Pakistan. When asked, the former premier mentioned the deteriorating health of his wife Kulsoom Nawaz as the reason for him not being able to return immediately.
Responding to a question, Nawaz said he was rendering a sacrifice for the people of Pakistan. “I am asking the nation to stand with me in this defining moment and not abandon me,” he said.
“Let’s change Pakistan; we have been waiting for this day for a long time, it is here now and there is no room for hesitation.”
Commenting on the verdict, Maryam Nawaz said it would have been easy for her to go down the path of reconciliation like her contemporaries in politics "and not say anything against anyone and have a bright future", but she decided against it.
"I knew that I will not be welcomed with garlands for the issues I am raising my voice for. But someone had to light the first flame which we have," she maintained.
Earlier in the day, the accountability court announced the verdict in the Avenfield properties corruption reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), handing Nawaz 10 years as jail time for owning assets beyond income and one year for not cooperating with NAB. The sentences will run concurrently which means the former prime minister will serve 10 years in jail.
His daughter Maryam Nawaz was given seven years for abetment, and one year for non-cooperation with the bureau — also to run concurrently; she will serve seven years in total.