Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was named in the Panama Papers investigation, stepped down after he was disqualified from holding public office in a unanimous verdict by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It has also ordered a case against the prime minister to be referred to the NAB (National Accountability Bureau).
Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan said on the bench’s recommendation, all material collected by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) would be sent to an accountability court within 6 weeks. Also, cases would be opened against Captain Muhammad Safdar, Maryam, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz as well as Nawaz Sharif. Within 30 days, a judgement will be announced.
Sharif was allegedly involved in money laundering to buy assets in London in the 1990s. The 2016 Panama Papers leak revealed that the assets were being managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children. Nawaz Sharif’s involvement in the Panama scandal was first broken by The Indian Express. Click here to read the story.
The Panama Papers investigation was carried out by multiple news organisations, including The Indian Express, after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) shared files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The records had been obtained from an anonymous source by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Panama papers hearing highlights
1:30 pm: That’s all for now from us. Continue to log on to indianexpress.com for all the developments on this story.
1:25 pm: As things stand, it has been a big day for Pakistani politics. The government of Nawaz Sharif has been brought down by the historic Supreme Court ruling in the Panama Papers case. For the third time, he has had to resign before completing his full term. He is the second PM after Iceland PM to resign in the Panama Papers case.
1:20 pm: “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,” Dawn quoted PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, one of the top Opposition leaders.
1:05 pm: This is the third time that Sharif has been unable to complete a five-year term. It is not clear who will take over as the head of the country till it goes to general elections in 2018.
1 pm: So the record still remains intact. No civilian prime minister of Pakistan has completed a five-year term.
12:55 pm: The disqualification inherently means that Nawaz Sharif cannot contest election or hold party office at least for five years. Also, he is the second prime minister to leave office after the Iceland PM in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal.
12:50 pm: Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan said on the bench’s recommendation, all material collected by the Joint Investigation Team would be sent to an accountability court within 6 weeks. Also, cases would be opened against Captain Muhammad Safdar, Maryam, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz as well as Nawaz Sharif.
Within 30 days, a judgement will be announced.
12:45 pm: With a case set to be registered against Sharif and past cases to be referred to NAB, the prime minister could even be arrested in future, Pakistani media is reporting.
12:30 pm: The court has ordered a case against PM Nawaz Sharif to be referred to NAB. And that’s it. The court has disqualified PM Nawaz Sharif from holding office 5-0. And that’s a huge development as we said earlier.
12:25 pm: Okay, so the judges have started reading the verdict. We will know soon what the court decides.
12:15 pm: Okay, in a few minutes from now, we will hear from the Pakistan Supreme Court on how it rules on Nawaz Sharif. If he is disqualified, then it’s a HUGE, HUGE development.
12:10 pm: What is the political climate in Pakistan right now?
Feverish social media debates and frenetic news coverage has defined this scandal to hit the country’s first family. Nawaz Sharif has been derided and hailed in equal measure. But the divisions have largely been along the party lines. Many in the country are waiting with bated breath to see what happens to their prime minister. In a country that has seen several military regimes in the past, there is tension on the streets. The verdict is awaited.
12 noon: Did you know that not a single civilian prime minister of Pakistan has completed a five-year term? Nawaz Sharif, who is in his third term right now, is one year away from taking that record. But if he is found guilty today, then he will have to step down.
11:50 am: So what happened in the earlier split verdict on April 20? A five-judge bench of the top court had pronounced the verdict then but it was split with three out of the five judges in favour of forming a Joint Investigation Team to find out whether the allegations against the prime minister and his family are true or not. Only two judges said Sharif must be disqualified from office as he was not honest before the country.
11:45 am: The hearing may have begun and the verdict is likely to come out very soon now. As we said earlier, the verdict will be announced in courtroom number 1 as opposed to the smaller courtrooms number 2 and 3 where the hearings mainly took place.
11:30 am: The Express Tribune reports that if one of the three judges disqualifies the prime minister, then it will be considered a majority judgment as two judges of the original five-member bench have already ruled against him.
11:20 am: The country’s main opposition leader, Imran Khan will not be at the Supreme Court for the verdict. Earlier he was slated to be present as the judges announce the verdict. But due to security concerns, he will not be going.
11:15 am: How will the verdict affect the India-Pakistan ties? The two countries have been having frosty relations since the attack on the Indian Army base in Uri that claimed the lives of at least 19 soldiers. India and Pakistan have also sparred on the issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the retired Indian Navy officer who is currently in Pakistani detention.
11:00 am: Dawn is reporting that both Islamabad, the national capital, and Rawalpindi, home to the Pakistani military, have been put on high alert with personnel in riot gear out on the streets. Disturbances may be reported if Nawaz is disqualified from office.
10:45 am: A lot of the Pakistani media’s focus is also on Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan who is widely said to be disgruntled within the party and the government. While many reports said he may resign from the government, that has not happened yet because he believes it would damage the party and the government. The Nation quoted him saying, “I was convinced to take the extreme step of resigning from the slot of the interior minister and even the membership of the National Assembly, soon after the announcement of Panama case verdict, till Thursday morning after the party separated me from the consultative process for more than one and a half month.”
So the question is whether Nisar could become the PM or even continue to be the Interior Minister?
10:40 am: The Pakistani PM, who returned from Maldives on Thursday, had held last-minute consultations with his family and legal aides on the options available to them in the wake of the verdict. They will meet later again today after the top court announces its verdict.
10:30 am: The five-judge bench of the top court is headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa who will announce the verdict in an hour from now in courtroom number 1, reports Dawn.
10:20 am: For those who are not aware of the case and charges against Nawaz Sharif and his family, here’s a wrap.
Hussain and Hasan Nawaz Sharif, and Mariam Safdar, the sons and daughter of the Pakistan Prime Minister set up at least four offshore companies in British Virgin Islands (BVI). These companies owned at least six upmarket properties overlooking London’s Hyde Park. The Sharif family mortgaged four of these properties to the Deutsche Bank (Suisse) SA for a loan of GBP 7 million and the Bank of Scotland part financed the purchase of two other apartments, documents of Mossack Fonseca reviewed by the Indian Express has shown. Now, Nawaz Sharif has denied ownership of all these properties and dismissed the allegations that have been hoisted on him.
Nescol Limited and Nielson Holdings Limited were incorporated in BVI in 1993 and 1994, respectively, and were held by one bearer share each. In February 2006, Mariam Safdar signed a resolution of Nescol Limited as the “sole (bearer) shareholder”. MF was appointed as the registered agent through Minerva Trust which described Mariam Safdar as the beneficial owner of both companies, the Indian Express report (click to read) by Jay Mazoomdaar says.
9.30 am: The verdict is scheduled to be announced at 11.30 am today. There is a considerable buzz around the verdict since both of Sharif’s first two stints have ended in the third year of his tenure.
9.15 am: Did you know that Pakistan Supreme Court had set up a six-member joint investigation team (JIT) to investigate the charges Sharif and his family in April? In its report submitted on July 10, the team noted that the lifestyle of Sharif and his children were beyond their known sources of income. The JIT also recommended filing a new corruption against the powerful Sharif family. Sharif, however, said the report was a “bundle of baseless allegations.”
9.00 am: Sharif refused to quit as Pakistan’s Prime Minister despite receiving pressure from several quarters, including opposition political parties.