Thousands of security forces are on alert in Pakistan’s capital ahead of Friday’s court ruling in one of the three corruption charges against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, officials said.

An anti-graft court in Islamabad is set to announce the decision after a nine-month trial that was mired in controversies.

The decision, which comes weeks ahead of national elections, has reinforced criticism that the country’s powerful military colluded with the judiciary to prevent Sharif’s party from seeking another term.

At least 4,000 police and hundreds of soldiers from the paramilitary have been deployed to cope with possible rioting, local official Mohamed Naeem told dpa.

Sharif, his daughter, two sons and a son-in-law are alleged to have bought properties in London with state money during one of the former premier’s three stints in power in the 1990s.

The family denies all charges.

Legal experts said Sharif faces up to 14 years in jail. Decisions in the remaining two cases are expected soon.

Sharif, who was found guilty by the Supreme Court in 2017 on corruption allegations, remains one of Pakistan’s most popular leaders despite the trial with his party leading its opponents in opinion polls.

He has forged a reputation as an advocate for civilian supremacy in a country marred by years of violence by Islamist militants and political upheavals but has had rough relations with the military and the judiciary.

All his three terms in power ended prematurely, once through a direct military coup and on the other occasions through covert actions by the army.

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