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Pakistan awaits Supreme Court ruling that could disqualify PM

21 April 2017, 02:11 | Taylor George

Verdict was reserved earlier by the top court

Verdict was reserved earlier by the top court

The Pakistan Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe PM Nawaz Sharif and his family's involvement in corruption in the Panama Papers case.

Two of the five judges went further, branding Sharif "dishonest" and saying he should be disqualified, but they were outnumbered.

Police in riot gear on Thursday surrounded Pakistan's highest court in the capital, Islamabad, as it prepared to deliver a decision that could unseat Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over corruption allegations related to the Panama Papers leaks.

The case was based on several identical petitions by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and others about alleged illegal assets of the Sharif family in London.

The Supreme Court agreed a year ago to investigate the Sharif family's offshore wealth after opposition leader Imran Khan threatened street protests following the leaking of the "Panama Papers".

Sharif and his children had been accused of graft in an ongoing case that had threatened to topple the prime minister and captivated Pakistan after the Panama Papers leak past year linked the family to offshore business.

The appetite for street protests has subsided, in part because four months of demonstrations won Khan little in terms of political change.

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He had served as the Prime Minister from 1990 to 1993 and from 1997 to 1999.

The leaked documents alleged there were at least eight off shore companies having links to the Sharif family.

According to reports, the country's top court said a joint investigation team would be constituted to probe Sharif, which would submit its report within 60 days.

Analysts and opposition politicians said the ruling was a blow to Sharif's credibility and the inquiry's findings could yet weaken the prime minister as he heads into a general election, due by May 2018. The other two judges wanted him to be disqualified straight away.

There are legitimate ways of using tax havens and offshore companies, although these entities are often used to hide the true owners of assets or avoid paying tax on the money.

"Imran Khan, we told you to join us and form legislation and then take it to the court", he said. With the odor of alleged shoddy financial practices in the air, Sharif's party becomes a ideal target for a hodgepodge of electoral opponents - from secular activists to religious groups - who have sought to portray Sharif and the dynastic political elite as corrupt and insular.

Kashif Abbasi of ARY News said the ruling party has "nothing to be happy about" while Munizae Jahangir of Aaj news said "the issue won't be resolved" until the investigation was concluded.



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