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Panama Papers: Pak SC orders probe into graft charges against Nawaz Sharif, family

Friday, April 21, 2017
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Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday narrowly escaped disqualification from Parliament after the Supreme Court gave a split verdict in favour of him over corruption allegations against his family members. But the top court directed the government to set up a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the allegations and find within 60 days if the Prime Minister is guilty or not.    

Opposition parties, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), had filed the petition against the Prime Minister last year after his children’s names appeared in the leaked Panama Papers, which documented the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful.

The opposition urged the court to disqualify the Prime Minister citing the Panama leaks. Three of the five-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Asif Khosa, ruled against the disqualification citing “insufficient evidence”, while the other two dissented.

The apex court held that the matter of disqualification would be heard after the committee submitted its findings. “If found necessary for passing an appropriate order in this behalf, respondent No. 1 (Mr. Sharif) or any other person may be summoned and examined,” the court declared.

Mr. Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) insists the wealth was acquired legally through family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.

The court has asked the JIT to find out details of Mr. Sharif’s family business in the Gulf. The ruling further stated that the country’s anti-corruption organisation, the National Accountability Bureau, has failed in performing its duties and that’s why the court wants a joint investigation team to be set up.  

A senior officer of the Federal Investigation Agency, not below the rank of Additional Director General, should head the team, according to the Supreme Court.

Imran Khan called on Mr. Sharif to step down until the investigation was completed. “The Prime Minister should immediately resign at least for the 60 days until JIT completes its work,” Mr. Khan told reporters. “How can he continue as Prime Minister when he is being investigated? What moral grounds does he have to continue in office?”

Asif Zardari, co-chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has raised doubts over the JIT, saying “how can government officers, who are subservient to the Prime Minister, probe allegations against him and his family?”