Pakistan's high court forces prime minister to resign over corruption probe

Pakistan's high court has ruled that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is disqualified from office as a result of a corruption probe related to the massive leak of documents in 2016 known as the Panama Papers.  Sharif accepted the verdict and resigned.

CNN:

The court ruled Sharif has been dishonest to parliament and to the judicial system, and is no longer deemed fit for the office of Prime Minister.

The panel of five judges announced their unanimous decision Friday afternoon, with the election commission ordered to issue a disqualification notice to Sharif. With the ruling, Sharif's Cabinet has also been dissolved.

Silence enveloped the courtroom as Justice Ejaz Afzal read out the judgment, and the opposition distributed candy following the verdict in celebration.

"Nawaz Sharif will accept the decision of the Supreme Court," Sharif's party, the PMLN said in a statement following the verdict.

"There has been an injustice against us. Nawaz Sharif will step down as premier of Pakistan despite reservations regarding the verdict."

He is expected to vacate the Prime Minister's residence by Friday evening.

The panel had been investigating Sharif's alleged links to offshore accounts and overseas properties owned by three of his children.

The assets, which were not declared on the family's wealth statement, were revealed in the massive Panama Papers leak in April 2016.

Although Nawaz Sharif was not named in the Panama Papers, a joint investigation committee formed by the Supreme Court in April 2017 concluded in mid-July that their investigation revealed incriminating documents that pointed to the prime minister and his family's corruption.

But investigators did find that Sharif held a work permit for the United Arab Emirates for a previously undisclosed company, a violation of the country's constitution, according to the judgment.

The Panama Papers leak sparked mass protests in Pakistan and calls from opposition political groups for a panel to investigate him and his children over their alleged offshore accounts.

The 11.5 million documents leaked by an anonymous source belonged to the law firm Mossack Fonseca.  Most of their business was legal – advising individuals and companies on how to avoid paying taxes on wealth.  But hundreds of clients apparently used the firm's expertise to illegally avoid paying taxes and launder money.

Some of the world's most powerful people are mentioned in the Panama Papers, and prosecutors are still digging through the massive trove of information.  The more complex the money trail, the more difficult it is to find illegal transactions.  But that was apparently Mossack Fonseca's expertise, and it's unclear who else might get caught up in the scandal.

Sharif has been at the top of Pakistani politics for more than two decades, having served twice before as prime minister, only to resign both times.  His second term began in 1997 and was cut short when he went up against the Pakistani military and General Pervez Musharraf and lost.  Musharraf engineered a coup, and Sharif spent some time in jail.

Now Sharif, one of the richest men in Pakistan, will be barred from leading his party in the general election next year.  But it appears he is grooming his daughter, Maryam, to take over the party's top spot.  Since no Pakistani prime minister has ever served out a full term, because of either corruption or a military coup, it stands to reason that whoever takes the reins of the PMLN has a truncated term ahead.

Pakistan's high court has ruled that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is disqualified from office as a result of a corruption probe related to the massive leak of documents in 2016 known as the Panama Papers.  Sharif accepted the verdict and resigned.

CNN:

The court ruled Sharif has been dishonest to parliament and to the judicial system, and is no longer deemed fit for the office of Prime Minister.

The panel of five judges announced their unanimous decision Friday afternoon, with the election commission ordered to issue a disqualification notice to Sharif. With the ruling, Sharif's Cabinet has also been dissolved.

Silence enveloped the courtroom as Justice Ejaz Afzal read out the judgment, and the opposition distributed candy following the verdict in celebration.

"Nawaz Sharif will accept the decision of the Supreme Court," Sharif's party, the PMLN said in a statement following the verdict.

"There has been an injustice against us. Nawaz Sharif will step down as premier of Pakistan despite reservations regarding the verdict."

He is expected to vacate the Prime Minister's residence by Friday evening.

The panel had been investigating Sharif's alleged links to offshore accounts and overseas properties owned by three of his children.

The assets, which were not declared on the family's wealth statement, were revealed in the massive Panama Papers leak in April 2016.

Although Nawaz Sharif was not named in the Panama Papers, a joint investigation committee formed by the Supreme Court in April 2017 concluded in mid-July that their investigation revealed incriminating documents that pointed to the prime minister and his family's corruption.

But investigators did find that Sharif held a work permit for the United Arab Emirates for a previously undisclosed company, a violation of the country's constitution, according to the judgment.

The Panama Papers leak sparked mass protests in Pakistan and calls from opposition political groups for a panel to investigate him and his children over their alleged offshore accounts.

The 11.5 million documents leaked by an anonymous source belonged to the law firm Mossack Fonseca.  Most of their business was legal – advising individuals and companies on how to avoid paying taxes on wealth.  But hundreds of clients apparently used the firm's expertise to illegally avoid paying taxes and launder money.

Some of the world's most powerful people are mentioned in the Panama Papers, and prosecutors are still digging through the massive trove of information.  The more complex the money trail, the more difficult it is to find illegal transactions.  But that was apparently Mossack Fonseca's expertise, and it's unclear who else might get caught up in the scandal.

Sharif has been at the top of Pakistani politics for more than two decades, having served twice before as prime minister, only to resign both times.  His second term began in 1997 and was cut short when he went up against the Pakistani military and General Pervez Musharraf and lost.  Musharraf engineered a coup, and Sharif spent some time in jail.

Now Sharif, one of the richest men in Pakistan, will be barred from leading his party in the general election next year.  But it appears he is grooming his daughter, Maryam, to take over the party's top spot.  Since no Pakistani prime minister has ever served out a full term, because of either corruption or a military coup, it stands to reason that whoever takes the reins of the PMLN has a truncated term ahead.

RECENT VIDEOS