ISLAMABAD – On Friday, the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for not disclosing his employment with FZE Capital, in a landmark decision in the Panamagate case.
The 5-o verdict was announced by a five-judge bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa – the same judge who had commenced his dissenting note in the April 20 judgment with a quote from The Godfather, a novel by Mario Puzo about a mafia family in Italy. The verdict declared Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ‘disqualified’ for concealing his employment.
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“Following the verdict, Nawaz Sharif has resigned from his responsibilities as prime minister,” a spokesman for PM’s office said in a statement.
Supreme Court Justice Asif Saeed Khosa initiated the announcement of the court’s verdict on the Panama Papers case shortly after 12:00 pm.
Apologising for the delay, he then gave the podium to Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who headed the implementation bench.
Justice Khan said that all material collected by the JIT would be sent to an accountability court within six weeks, and judgement should be announced within 30 days.
Cases would be opened against Captain Muhammad Safdar, Maryam, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz as well as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
One judge will oversee the implementation of this order.
The prime minister was additionally disqualified from holding office for life. The judges ruled that the prime minister had been dishonest to the parliament and the courts and could not be deemed fit for the prime minister’s office.
The judgement is unanimous.
The petitioners included Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed and Jamaat-e-Islami head Sirajul Haq while the respondents include the prime minister, his family members, and several government officials and departments.
Around 3,000 personnel of Police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary have been deployed at the Supreme Court and the Red Zone to tackle any confrontation.
Panama Papers & Sharif family
The historical verdict follows an investigation into Sharif family’s wealth after the 2016 Panama Papers dump linked the PM’s children to offshore companies.
The prime minister – who himself is not named in the Panama Papers – denies all allegations and insists they are politically motivated. There were also questions over the make-up of the SC-sanctioned Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that helped the court in probing the case.
Sharif’s four children – Maryam, his presumptive political heir, and his sons Hasan and Hussein – were implicated in the papers.
At the heart of the case was the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies.
The PML-N insists the wealth was acquired legally, through Sharif family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.
The top court had in April declared there was “insufficient evidence” to oust Sharif over the allegations surrounding his family, and ordered an investigation team to probe the matter.
The team of civilian and military investigators found there was a “significant disparity” between the Sharif family’s income and lifestyle, mentioning this in a report submitted to the court earlier this month.
The Sharifs and their allies have consistently and vehemently rejected the claims, with his ruling PML-N party this month dismissing the investigation team’s report as “trash”.
What will happen next?
Nawaz Sharif has been ousted by graft allegations once before, during the first of his three terms as prime minister in 1993.
He has not yet completed a term as prime minister, having been toppled in his second term by a military coup in 1999.
Friday’s verdict is a massive blow to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ahead of general elections due to be held next year.
PML-N currently has no clear successor in place. PM’s daughter Maryam Safdar does not hold public office, while his brother Shehbaz Sharif, the current chief minister of Punjab province, holds only a provincial seat.