Pakistan opposition vows protests, demands Nawaz Sharif's resignation

Saturday, 22 Apr, 2017

Sharif and his children are accused of graft in the ongoing case which has captivated Pakistan and threatened to topple the prime minister after the Panama Papers leak past year linked the family to offshore businesses.

Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that there is not enough evidence to convict Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of corruption after the 2016 Panama Paper leaks linked his children to three offshore accounts.

A verdict to dismiss Sharif would have sparked turmoil at a time when Pakistan's civilian government and powerful military have appeared to come to uneasy terms.

Sharif expressed his satisfaction after the verdict that was split 3-2 among the five-judge bench, comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan. The assets surfaced when Panama papers previous year showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif's children.

The team has two months to complete its inquiry.

The bench was not satisfied with regards to the money trail for the Sharif family's Gulf steel mill and ordered to investigate their business dealings in Qatar.

Following the release of the Panama Papers, thousands of protesters in Islamabad demanded the prime minister's resignation in September while opposition parties have also attacked Sharif for failing to declare his family's offshore connections.

Sharif and his PML-N party breathed a collective sigh of relief as the fear of an "extreme verdict" - the prime minister's ouster - dissolved and gave way to celebrations.

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Under tight security, Pakistan's top court is to deliver a much-awaited decision on Thursday on corruption allegations against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family which could determine his political future.

"A thorough investigation is required", said Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, announcing the highly anticipated decision following a months-long trial.

Khan compared the current scenario with the United Kingdom where David Cameron quit after he lost the Brexit referendum, despite being elected with a landslide majority, because he lost the moral ground to lead.

Sharif has not explained publicly how he was able to amass a fortune of around $19 million while working in politics since the 1970s, and opposition leaders accuse him of lying to parliament.

Last year's Panama Papers leaks, which documented the offshore dealings of numerous world's rich and powerful, alleged that Maryam was the beneficial owner of the London properties owned jointly by her brothers as well, Dawn online reported. ─AFP Supporters of PM Nawaz Sharif distribute candies following Supreme Court's decision.

Farogh Naseem, a Supreme Court lawyer and sitting senator, said Sharif could breathe easy, for now. "There is no clean chit for the prime minister, but for the time being he has been saved from being disqualified".

Two out of five judges agreed that there was enough evidence that the money in question was sent overseas illegally while three judges said the matter needed further investigation.

The leader of the main opposition party in Pakistan Imran Khan had an exclusive meeting with the new Army Chief General Bajwa ten days ago.