ISLAMABAD (REUTERS, AFP) – Pakistan’s top court on Friday (July 28) disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office after a damning corruption probe into his family wealth, cutting short his third stint in power.
The Supreme Court dismissed Sharif after an investigative panel alleged his family could not account for its vast wealth.
The court also asked the national anti-corruption bureau to launch a further probe into the allegations against Sharif, which stem from the Panama Papers leak last year linking the premier’s family to lucrative offshore businesses.
“He is no more eligible to be an honest member of the parliament, and he ceases to be holding the office of prime minister,” Judge Ejaz Afzal Khan said in court.
The team of civilian and military investigators had found there was a “significant disparity” between the Sharif family’s income and lifestyle in its report, which was released to the public and submitted to the court earlier this month.
It sparked an uproar with some of its findings, including the claim that documents regarding Sharif’s daughter Maryam and her link to some of the family’s London properties were “falsified” – dated 2006, but typed in Microsoft’s Calibri font, which was not released for commercial use until 2007.
Sharif, 67, has always denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the investigation into him as biased and inaccurate.
Sharif’s allies have alleged there was a conspiracy to unseat him.
“This is not accountability, it is revenge,” tweeted Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq hours before the verdict was announced. “In an effort dislodge us, the democratic system has been made a target.”
Supporters of the opposition cheered the court's decision. “Go, Nawaz, Go,” shouted supporters of the PTI opposition party who had gathered outside the court, and who jeered politicians from Sharif’s party.
“Today the people of Pakistan got real justice, a new chapter has begun,” Jehangir Khan Tareen, a member of the opposition PTI, said outside the court.
Analysts have warned that another bout of political turmoil would spook foreign investors, who are already reticent to invest in Pakistan, deterred by security fears and a tough business climate.
No Pakistani prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term.
Most have seen their tenures cut short by the powerful military or interference from the Supreme Court. Others have been ousted by their own party, forced to resign – or been assassinated.
It is the second time in Pakistan’s 70-year history that the Supreme Court has disqualified a sitting prime minister.
Sharif’s two previous stints in power were also cut short, including by a military coup in 1999, but he came back from exile to win a resounding victory in the 2013 general elections.
His ruling PML-N party, which has a majority in the parliament, is now expected to appoint a new prime minister.