Pakistan Supreme Court gives unanimous final verdict on Panamagate, disqualifies PM Sharif, orders continuance of democratic process

The SC also ordered President of Pakistan to maintain the democratic process after disqualification of PM Sharif

Irshad Salim (Updated) — Pakistan’s Supreme Court in a landmark judgment today handed down final verdict the nation has been waiting for the last several months. A legal battle set off by the revelations in the Panama Papers about the offshore companies of the Sharif family finally ended after tumultuous 10 months. Past noon, a five-judge bench delivered the historical verdict, which decided the fate of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif – and perhaps his political future.

The three-time elected PM Sharif stands disqualified according to the court’s unanimous decision.

Justice Khan said all material collected by the JIT would be sent to an accountability court within six weeks, and cases should be opened against Captain Muhammad Safdar, Maryam, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz as well as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and a judgement should be announced within 30 days.

The prime minister was disqualified from holding his office for not disclosing his employment in UAE-based offshore company Capital FZE. The judges ruled that the prime minister had been dishonest to parliament and the courts and could not be deemed fit for his office.

The Supreme Court also disqualified Finance Minister Ishaq Dar who happens to be father-in-law of PM’s Sharif’s elder daughter Maryam Nawaz considered his political heir.

The five-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and including Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsen in April had in a split decision ordered a joint probe of the serious charges against Sharifs by a civil-military team called Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The JIT was given 60 days to submit its report which it did on July 10.

On July 21, the court reserved the judgment with the ruling to look into the matter of disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying that fundamental rights of both the petitioners and the respondents would be fully protected.

According to reports, Court Room No 1 where the 5-member bench announced the final verdict was filled to the capacity.

Ironically, no Pakistani prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term. 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 belonging to Bhutto’s Peoples PArty was disqualified over contempt of court charges for refusing to reopen a corruption case against the sitting president Asif Ali Zardari who at that time was also the Chairman of the same party.

The Federal cabinet now stands dissolved. The SC also ordered President of Pakistan to maintain the democratic process after disqualification of PM Sharif.

Several observers said “Supreme Court has drained the swamp” — “it will have devastating effect on district, union council” — “and even up to grass-root level corruption endemic in the society here.”

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