Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Nawaz Sharif gets SC relief in Panama graft case

Nawaz Sharif gets SC relief in Panama graft case

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".

Security has dramatically improved in the last two years, overall confidence in the economy is growing, and the military, which has ruled the country for more than half its history, appears to have reached an accommodation with Sharif's civilian government.

Two of the five judges went further than the ruling, branding Sharif "dishonest" and saying he should be disqualified, but they were outnumbered.

The team has two months to complete its inquiry and its findings could yet weaken Sharif as he heads into a general election, due by May 2018. This simply means the Prime Minister will be on the mercy of the ISI and the Pakistan Army.

In April 2016, Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper published materials it claimed came from the Mossack Fonseca company, exposing the alleged involvement of a number of world leaders, like Sharif, as well as influential figures and their circles in tax havens schemes. The family submitted a letter from a Qatari prince claiming that the flats were bought through investment in the 1980s from the Sharif family into the prince's family business.

Rather than finding for or against Sharif, the panel ordered a new investigation, which will seek testimony from the Prime Minister and his sons. Sharif's family has denied wrongdoing and said the accusations are politically motivated attacks.

"We welcome this decision", Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told reporters after coming out of the courtroom.

The opposition accuses Sharif of failing to explain the source of offshore money and of lying to parliament. The Pakistan Army, which had successfully ousted him on October 12, 1999, under the command of General Pervez Musharraf after the Kargil war with India, will probe whether Sharif and his family is guilty of amassing illegal wealth overseas. In its ruling, it said sufficient evidence was not available to order his removal from office.

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

The appetite for street protests has subsided, in part because four months of demonstrations won Khan little in terms of political change.

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