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Daily News Analysis

Pakistan Supreme Court declares Nawaz Sharif unfit to hold public office

Crescent International

Islamabad, Friday July 28, 2017

Corruption has finally caught up with Nawaz Sharif and his family. In a landmark decision on Friday, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office over what came to be called the Panama Papers scandal.

As head of the implementation bench, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan who had also written the majority opinion on April 20, announced: “The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shall issue a notification disqualifying Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif from being a member of the Parliament with immediate effect, after which he shall cease to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan.”

Soon after the apex court’s verdict, a notification from the Prime Minister House said, Sharif has resigned as premier although he had “strong reservations” about the verdict.

Two other individuals both related to Sharif by marriage—Finance Minister Ishaq Dar (his son is married to Sharif’s younger daughter), and Captain (retired) Muhammad Safdar, Sharif’s son-in-law (married to Sharif’s daughter Maryam)—were also disqualified from holding elected office. Safdar was members of the National Assembly.

The apex court also ordered the Accountability Court to open references against Sharif and his family, and other respondents relating to money laundering, acquisition of properties abroad without providing proof about where the money came from. Further, Sharif was also employed in a Dubai-based company while serving as the country’s prime minister. He did not disclose this either in his nomination papers.

The judges ruled that Nawaz had been dishonest to the parliament and the courts in not disclosing his employment in the Dubai-based Capital FZE company in his 2013 nomination papers, and thus, could not be deemed fit for his office.

“It is hereby declared that having failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets from Capital FZE Jebel Ali, UAE in his nomination papers filed for the General Elections held in 2013 in terms of Section 12(2)(f) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 (ROPA), and having furnished a false declaration under solemn affirmation respondent No. 1 Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is not honest in terms of Section 99(f) of ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and therefore he is disqualified to be a Member of the Majlis-e-Shoora [Parliament].”

The apex court said that on the basis of JIT information, cases would be opened against Ishaq Dar; Captain (ret’d) Muhammad Safdar; Maryam, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz; as well as the ex-premier.

Stipulating a six-month deadline for the reference cases, Justice Khan said one judge would oversee the implementation of this order. References to be filed by NAB before the accountability court would include:

1: Against Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz Sharif, Hassan Nawaz Sharif, and Capt. (Retd). Muhammad Safdar relating to the Avenfield properties in London, United Kingdom.

2: Reference against Nawaz Sharif, and Hussain and Hassan Nawaz regarding Azizia Steel Company and Hill Metal Establishment.

Last April, in a split decision (3-2), the Supreme Court had ordered the establishment of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe further into the money laundering and corruption allegations before reaching a final verdict. The JIT was constituted on May 6 and ordered to complete its report in 60 days.

The JIT’s performance surprised most observers. It dug out details that ordinarily were considered beyond the reach of most investigators. It delivered 10 volumes of its investigation report to the Supreme Court on July 10. The JIT findings were described as explosive.

Leading up to the Supreme Court verdict, members of Sharif’s party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz group) had issued bold statements saying that the apex court would dismiss the JIT report. They alleged it was full of holes and would not stand closer scrutiny. After the SC verdict, the party said it would use all legal and constitutional means to contest the verdict. How it would do that was not immediately clear.

The question on everyone’s mind is, what next? If things work according to the constitution—and there is no reason why it shouldn’t—speaker of the National Assembly would take over as interim prime minister with perhaps a smaller cabinet for about six months.

Fresh elections would be held next year for a new parliament. The ruling PML-N still has a comfortable majority in parliament although given Pakistan’s lota politics, some MNAs may be thinking of jumping a ship that they clearly see as sinking.

The PML-N was built around Nawaz Sharif. If he is so badly discredited and eliminated from the scene, the lotas would be heading toward Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf.

Imran Khan has virtually single-handedly pursued the Panama Papers. His tireless efforts have finally paid off at least in terms of getting several people involved in massive corruption. Will other crooks also now be hauled before the court?

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