ISLAMABAD: A five-judge Supreme Court bench has disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a unanimous verdict in the Panamagate case, thus cutting short his third stint in power.
Soon after the SC judgement, the PM House issued a terse statement saying that Nawaz Sharif, despite having reservations on the SC’s verdict, has stepped down from his post as the premier.
Sharif served as prime minister twice in the 1990s before he himself was ousted in a 1999 coup leading to a decade of exile. He won a third term as prime minister in a 2013 election.
According to ARY Islamabad Bureau Chief Sabir Shakir, the apex court has declared Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ineligible to rule in its historic judgement after corruption charges against him and and his family for stashing wealth abroad beyond known sources of income.
Under the court orders, the cases would be opened against Captain Muhammad Safdar, Maryam Nawaz, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz as well as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. A judgement should be announced within 30 days, the court said.
One judge will oversee the implementation of this order.
The court also ordered that all cases of the Sharif family including PM Nawaz Sharif be referred to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) within six weeks.
The bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, announced the judgement. Justice Khosa is the same judge who had given a dissenting note in the April 20 judgment with a quote from Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather and declared Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ‘disqualified’ for not being honest to the nation.
The judge also had directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue a notification of the PM’s disqualification, an opinion that was endorsed by another Justice Gulzar Ahmed.
But three other judges of the bench – Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan – preferred giving prime minister and his children another opportunity to explain their position before forming the Joint Investigation Team.
Sharifs last-ditch defence
On July 21, the three-judge bench wrapped up the hearing on the findings of the JIT in Panamagate scandal. The counsel for the Prime Minister stressed throughout the hearing that the PM cannot be sent packing in the wake of the report which so far has failed to provide corroborative evidence to prove any wrongdoing committed by the PM.
The bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, however, noted that the burden of proof lies with the properties’ owner to prove the money trail. “If the money trail is not established, the public office holder (PM) will have to bear the brunt of repercussions.”
Though, the lawyers, representing the PM and his children, pointed out ‘various loopholes’ in the report, but failed to give definitively answers to the judges’ queries about where did the money come from to buy pricy flats in an upscale London neighbourhod.
The judges also hinted at treading into the domain of disqualification of the prime minister and referring the matter to the NAB for initiation of corruption references against him.
Pakistan’s Panama Papers: How it all started
The Panama Papers scandal unraveled to the world in April this year with shock and Pakistan was no exception especially when its ruling elite were discovered to have stashed their wealth offshore.
The leaked papers, comprising 11.5 million documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, exposed how some of the world’s most powerful people have secreted their money offshore, and also implicated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s sons Hasan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz.
The revelations in a report released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) dropped like a bombshell on the government on April 4, 2016, prompting countrywide debate whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should stay in office after startling disclosures concerning stashed wealth of his family.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan issued notices to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the parties concerned on October 20.