Not enough evidence to disqualify Sharif, SC rules

Not enough evidence to disqualify Sharif, SC rules

Pakistan's Supreme Court pronounced its verdict on a much-anticipated case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children over corruption allegations on Thursday (20 April).

Sharif has denied any wrongdoing, but the Supreme Court agreed to investigate his family's offshore wealth late past year after opposition leader Imran Khan threatened street protests.

People in Pakistan, with Imran Khan at the helm, had been asking for an inquiry to determine how Sharif's children made all that money to buy offshore companies and real estate in London's prime locations, and whether they had paid their due tax on their income. His party says the wealth was acquired legally in Pakistan and the Gulf.

In a 3-2 judgement on the case, the apex court earlier ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to continue probing the allegations of financial irregularities and money laundering, while noting that at present, there is 'insufficient evidence to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif'.

According to media reports, three judges said further investigation was needed in the case but two other judges wanted the Pakistan prime minister to be disqualified.

In 2016, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) leaked 11.5 million documents relating to more than 200,000 offshore entities around the world, from the law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Sharif's supporters hailed the ruling.

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Khan's party said before the ruling that it would not launch a new street movement if it was disappointed by the judgement.

Naseem said with three of the institutions involved in the joint investigation under Sharif's control, a decision against him was unlikely.

"The nation is expecting some sort of judgement which will change the course of history in Pakistan", senior Supreme Court lawyer S.M. Zafar told AFP, though he said it was hard to predict the verdict. "Whatever the verdict, am amazed and humbled to see the overwhelming support for Nawaz Sharif", she tweeted on Thursday.

The decision which was reserved by the Supreme Court regarding the Panama Papers on February 23, is due to be announced tomorrow. The petitions question the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase many high-end London properties through offshore companies. In 2012, the same court convicted then-Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.

Rather than finding for or against Sharif, the panel ordered a new investigation, which will seek testimony from the Prime Minister and his sons.

Naeemul Haq, a spokesman for cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, whose party is leading the petition, said the decision will be an "historic one".