In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding office after a corruption probe into his family wealth, cutting short his third stint as Prime Minister.
The country’s apex court five-judge larger bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa has unanimously disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for filing a false assets declaration by failing to disclose his un-withdrawn salary as chairman of UAE-based offshore company Capital FZE.
“He [Nawaz] is no more eligible to be an honest member of the parliament, and he ceases to be holding the office of prime minister,” said Judge Ejaz Afzal Khan in court.
Shortly after, the PM House issued a notification saying that Nawaz Sharif, despite having “strong reservations” on the SC’s verdict, has stepped down from his post as the head of the cabinet. Reacting to the court’s order, a PML-N spokesperson said that the party will utilise all legal and constitutional means to contest the verdict.
According to a statement from the prime minister’s office, Sharif stood down from his post in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling shortly after it was announced.
“Immediately following the [Supreme Court’s] verdict, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has stood down as prime minister,” said the statement. “All legal and constitutional options will be exercised regarding our serious differences with this verdict.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan became the first country to act against the accused in the Panamagate scandal.
On April 4, 2016, the international Consortium of Investigative Journalism published the Panama papers, exposing tax evasions by the world’s elite through off-shore and shell companies. The Sharif family name was included in the list of 11.5 million documents.
On April 5, 2016, Nawaz Sharief set up a Judicial committee to investigate the allegation while denying the charges. Meanwhile, the opposition parties in Pakistan rejected the judicial commission set up by the government.
Supreme Court of Pakistan decided to pursue the case in November and PML-N, The party Nawaz Sharif heads submits Qatari prince’s letter to the Supreme Court containing information about the London flats that were at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal.
In January this year, Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz submitted details of assets after the Supreme Court resumes hearing, while as after three months after, Supreme Court orders formation of JIT with a split 2-3 verdict to probe the charges against Sharief.
In May, 2017, Nawaz Sharief’s family appears before the JIT and a month later for the first time a sitting Prime Minister appears before an investigation agency.
On July 10, JIT submits its final report in the Supreme Court and on 28 July, the five-member SC bench unanimously rules against Sharif, disqualifying him from the office.
Prior to decision by the apex court of Pakistan, both Islamabad and Rawalpindi were put on high alert as personnel in riot gear roamed the streets so as to avert any possible disturbances. Opposition leaders were expected to hit the streets to celebrate the judgment.
“It’s a historic day, let’s strengthen Pakistan, let’s get rid of terrorism from the country. Let us take this moment to express gratitude to the armed forces, police and other law enforcement agencies. We should also thank the JIT members for not succumbing to the enormous pressure and serving the cause of justice,” said PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan on Friday said that the Supreme Court verdict on the Panama Papers case is the beginning of accountability in Pakistan.
“What the JIT did in 60 days could not have been done even in the West,” he said.
“With this investigation, it is evident that we have the capability to put check on corruption. The Supreme Court has proven that today.”
“Everyone will be held accountable now. This is the beginning,” said Khan.
“The Supreme Court’s decision has given hope to the people of Pakistan today,” proclaimed the PTI chairman.
Interestingly, the Panama leaks also name many Indians involved in tax evasions.
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