Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday said there was not enough evidence to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ordered a fresh probe into corruption charges as revealed in the Panama Papers.
While Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed called for Sharif’s disqualification, the other three judges said there must be a new multi-agency investigation into the allegations against the Prime Minister and his family. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT), made up of officials from the military and other investigating agencies, would be set up within a week and submit a report in 60 days.
Justice Khosa said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had failed to probe the case properly but they would be part of the JIT. Sharif, who many in Pakistan feared might be forced to step down on Thursday, will appear before the probe team.
The scandal erupted last year with the publication of the “Panama Papers” which documented the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful. Among those implicated were three of Sharif’s four children – his daughter and presumptive political heir Maryam and sons Hasan and Hussein.
At the heart of the matter is the legitimacy of the funds used by Sharif’s family to buy high-end London properties through offshore firms. His party says the wealth was acquired legally in Pakistan and the Gulf. “It needs to be investigated how the money was transferred to Qatar,” the Thursday 540-page verdict read.
The JIT will be required to present the report after every two weeks. Sharif’s supporters hailed the ruling. “The split verdict proves that people, especially the PTI who opposed PM, are in a minority,” said Ahsan Iqbal, a leader from Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
As tensions peaked in Islamabad ahead of the verdict, around 1,500 police commandos and riot forces were deployed around the court. Lawyers opposing Sharif say the onus is on him to prove that his family did not engage in money laundering.