Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ordered the National Accountability Board to file its reference against him and his family within six weeks. A five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa delivered the unanimous verdict. On July 21, the court had reserved its verdict after concluding the hearing. Pakistan’s Supreme Court also disqualified Finance Minister Ishaq Dar from office. Click here for LIVE updates from Pakistan
The verdict was read out by Justice Ejaz Afzal. Dawn News reports that the bench said that all the material collected by the JIT would now be sent to an accountability court within six weeks, and that cases would be opened against Captain Muhammad Safdar, Maryam, Hassan, Hussain Nawaz as well as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. A judgement should be announced within 30 days, he said.
The allegation of money laundering against 67-year-old Sharif is of during his tenure as Prime Minister in the 1990s, when he purchased assets in London. The assets surfaced when The Indian Express first reported last year that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children. The report was part of the Panama Papers expose by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Sharif’s assets include four expensive flats in London.
In May, the Supreme Court set up a six-member joint investigation team (JIT) to investigate the charges against Sharif and his family. The JIT submitted its report to the court on July 10. In its report, the JIT said the lifestyle of Sharif and his children were beyond their known sources of income, and recommended filing of a new corruption case against them. Sharif dismissed the report as a “bundle of baseless allegations” and refused to quit, despite demands to do so from several quarters, including opposition political parties.
In the wake of the verdict, Islamabad police have announced special security arrangements and closed the capital’s central “Red Zone” area, which has important buildings including the Supreme Court, for the general public.
This is Sharif’s third term as Prime Minister of Pakistan, and leads Pakistan’s most powerful political family and the ruling PML-N party. Interestingly, both of Nawaz Sharif’s earlier stints have ended in the third year of his tenure. A steel tycoon-cum-politician, Sharif had served as the Pakistan’s prime minister for the first time from 1990 to 1993. His second term from 1997 was ended in 1999 by Army chief Pervez Musharraf in a coup.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court took up the case in October 2016 on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami and reserved the verdict in February after conducting hearings on a daily basis.