Pakistan PM Nawas Sharif resigns after Supreme Court’s disqualification

Friday, Jul 28, 2017,14:38 IST By anju A A A

Islamabad | Pakistan’s Supreme Court today disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for dishonesty and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal, forcing the embattled leader to resign.

It is the third time that the 67-year-old veteran politician’s term as premier has been cut short. The much- awaited verdict plunged Pakistan into a political crisis at a time when the country is facing a brittle economy and a surge in militancy.

As the unanimous verdict by the five-judge bench was read out by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan inside the packed courtroom 1 of the Supreme Court, a large number of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf workers celebrated outside chanting the slogan, ‘Go, Nawaz, Go’.

The court disqualified Sharif under Article 62 and 63 of Pakistan’s Constitution. The articles state that a member of Parliament should be “truthful” and “righteous”.

“He is disqualified as a member of the parliament so he has ceased to be holding the office of Prime Minister,” Justice Khan said. The court ordered the Election Commission to issue a notification for Sharif’s disqualification.

Following the order, the Election Commission de-notified Sharif from NA-120 constituency (in Lahore).

The federal Cabinet also stands dissolved.

Though there was no official announcement, Geo News reported that after a consultative session of the PML-N, Shehbaz Sharif has emerged as the most likely candidate to be the next prime minister of Pakistan after an interim premier has served a 45-day period.

A name has not been announced for the interim prime minister, who will fill the 45-day vacuum until Shehbaz, 65, is elected to a National Assembly seat, the report said.

The court verdict said that having furnished a false declaration under solemn affirmation, Sharif was “not honest” under terms of the Constitution.

Sharif has maintained that there has not been any wrongdoing on his part.

Following the court verdict, a spokesperson of Pakistan Muslims League Nawaz (PML-N) said in a statement that Sharif had stepped down as the Prime Minister.

Despite reservations regarding different phases of the Panama case proceedings, the decision of the apex court will be implemented, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson claimed that during the course of the proceedings of the case, new precedence were set which have not been seen in the history of the country.

The spokesperson said all the legal and constitutional options will be exercised regarding the party’s reservations over the judgement.

The Supreme Court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau to start a corruption case against Sharif, his children — Hussain and Hassan — and his daughter Maryam.

The Supreme Court ordered that the cases against them be registered within six weeks and trial be completed within six months after the registration of the cases.

The court also ordered a criminal investigation into the assets of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Sharif’s trusted aide, and Captain Muhammad Safdar, who is Sharif’s son-in-law and a Member of National Assembly (MNA). Earlier, media reports in Pakistan had said that they had been disqualified.

Contrasting reactions to the verdict were witnessed in Pakistan with workers and supporters of both opposition and the ruling party taking to the streets to either condemn or celebrate the apex court’s landmark decision.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers and supporters celebrated the decision by distributing sweets and dancing on drum beats while in Lahore, considered to be Sharif’s bastion, PML-N workers blocked major city roads to protest the verdict.

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s leading opposition leader and petitioner in the Panama case, hailed the verdict.

“I am grateful to all those people who struggled with me, protested, or killed during our long struggle for this cause.
It’s the result for a united struggle that we are seeing this day today,” the cricketer-turned-politician said.

“It is a moment of joy for whole of Pakistan because for the first time the Supreme Court has disqualified the most powerful man in Pakistan, who has been ruling for 30 years.

The verdict has brought hope with it, the hope that we too can advance like other countries,” he said.

Imran also announced that in order to celebrate the court verdict a massive rally will be held here on Sunday.

The Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, in a swipe at Sharif, tweeted, “Godfather’s Rule has ended for good! Truth & Justice have prevailed!”

Pakistan’s former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, who has been living in Dubai since last year when he was allowed to leave Pakistan on the pretext of medical treatment, congratulated the entire nation on the court’s decision.

“It’s a good decision. The entire nation is jubilantly distributing sweets,” he was quoted as saying by Geo News.

Chairman of Pakistan People Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged everyone to respect the verdict.

This is the third time the prime minister, known as the ‘Lion of Punjab’, has been unable to complete his term as premier.

Reacting to Sharif’s disqualification, his daughter Maryam said he would make a forceful comeback.

“Another elected Prime Minister sent home, but only to see him return with greater force & support & soonest Insha’Allah (God willing),” said Maryam, who is carefully being groomed by her father as his political heir.

“Today will pave the way for Nawaz Sharif’s resounding victory in 2018. He will be unstoppable…Rok sakte ho to rok lo! (stop him if you can),” the 43-year-old leader said in a series of tweets.

The verdict meant that yet another Pakistani premier has failed to complete a five-year term.

No Pakistani prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term with their tenures cut short by the military, the judiciary or they were ousted by their own party, forced to resign — or assassinated.

It is the second time in Pakistan’s 70-year history that the Supreme Court has disqualified a sitting prime minister.

In 2012, then-prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was disqualified over contempt of court charges for refusing to reopen a graft case against then president Asif Ali Zardari.

The Panama Papers scandal is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s, when he twice served as prime minister, to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when Panama Papers leak last year revealed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children.

The assets include four expensive flats in London.

Sharif has been the prime minister of Pakistan for a record three times. He leads Pakistan’s most powerful political family and the ruling PML-N party.

A steel tycoon-cum-politician, Sharif had served as the Pakistan’s prime minister for the first time from 1990 to 1993. His second term from 1997 was ended in 1999 by the then army chief Musharraf in a bloodless coup.

In May, the Supreme Court set up a six-member joint investigation team (JIT) to investigate the charges against Sharif and his family. The JIT submitted its report to the court on July 10.

It said that the lifestyle of Sharif and his children were beyond their known sources of income, and recommended filing of a new corruption case against them.

Sharif dismissed the report as a “bundle of baseless allegations” and refused to quit, despite demands to do so from several quarters, including opposition political parties.

On July 21, the court reserved its verdict after concluding the hearing.

The six-member JIT was set up with a mandate to probe the Sharif family for allegedly failing to provide the trail of money used to buy properties in London in the 1990s.

The top court took up the case in October last year on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami and reserved the verdict in February after conducting hearings on a daily basis.

The five-judge bench that issued today’s verdict comprised — Justices Asif Saeed Khosa, Khan, Gulzar Ahmed, Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Ijazul Ahsan.

The court took up the case on November 3 last year and held 35 hearings spanning over more than 132 hours before concluding the proceedings on February 23. It had issued the 547-pages split judgement on April 20.