Pakistan court to decide on accusations against PM's family

  • Pakistan court to decide on accusations against PM's family

Pakistan court to decide on accusations against PM's family

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI A looming Supreme Court decision that could disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over corruption allegations had Pakistan on edge on Wednesday, as a drawn-out investigation related to the Panama Papers leaks neared its conclusion.

Sharif had a narrow escape after a split decision by the five-member bench of the Supreme Court, with two judges recommending that the premier be told to step down.

In a 3-2 ruling, the court said it needed more information on the alleged illicit money trail and gave a 60-day deadline for a report.

The JIT has been given two months to complete the probe.

Opposition party leader Imran Khan and other oppositions had been asking the courts to probe against the Pakistan Prime Minister.

Justice Ijaz Afzal, Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan wrote the majority judgment, whereas Justice Gulzar and Justice Khosa in their dissenting note wanted to remove the Prime Minister as sought by the petitioners.

Late past year, the Supreme Court chose to investigate Sharif's offshore affiliations, after Opposition Leader Imran Khan threatened major protests.

Defending Sharif's case, PML-N insists that his wealth was acquired legally through family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.

The case was started on November 3, 2016 and the court held 35 hearings before concluding the proceedings on February 23, 2017.

The Panama Papers, which were published previous year, released around 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca which documented offshore dealings of numerous world's rich and powerful.

The Supreme Court took up the matter after several petitions were filed by the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan and others.

The sharply worded, 540-page ruling fell short of the bombshell Sharif's opponents had hoped for, allowing him to remain in office while his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, competes in general elections next year.

"It needs to be investigated how the money was transferred to Qatar", the verdict read.

Sharif's supporters hailed the decisions as a victory of justice.

Following Nawaz's attempt to get rid of the taint on Pakistan TV, a committee of five ex-SC judges approached by the government to probe the allegations against Sharif and his family refused to do so.

In particular, documents appeared to show that three of Sharif's children - Maryam, Hassan and Hussain - owned offshore holdings in three British Virgin Islands-registered companies.

Such a move would leave Sharif's party in power, but trigger intense turmoil just when the economy is showing modest growth and security has improved as the civilian government and the powerful military have appeared to come to uneasy terms.