Pakistan court extends PM Nawaz Sharif corruption probe

Candice Alexander
April 21, 2017

Supporters of the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) celebrate after a Supreme Court verdict on the Panama Papers in Islamabad on April 20, 2017.

Senior opposition politician Mehnaz Rafi - from the party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, which was leading the petition - told The Associated Press before the court announced its decision that she hoped it would help recover tax money from Sharif's family and others who set up offshore companies to evade taxes.

Following mass protests and calls from opposition political groups, a panel was finally formed in November 2016 to investigate links between Sharif and his children's offshore accounts.

Sharif defended himself in parliament last year saying the wealth his family possesses was acquired legally several years before he even ventured into politics.

Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled that there is insufficient evidence of corruption to remove Sharif from office, but it has ordered further investigation into money transfers detailed in the Panama Papers.

The JIT will present fortnightly reports before the bench.

Heading the bench hearing a slew of petitions against the Sharif family, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had observed that 26,000 pages were submitted in the Panamagate case and the judges will read "each word" of them.

The scandal erupted previous year with the publication of the "Panama Papers" which documented the offshore dealings of numerous world's rich and powerful.

Kashif Abbasi of ARY News said the ruling party has "nothing to be happy about" while Munizae Jahangir of Aaj news said "the issue won't be resolved" until the investigation was concluded.

Police in riot gear surrounded the court in the capital, Islamabad, as it delivered its verdict and some protesters urged Sharif to step down with shouts of "Go Nawaz, Go Nawaz".

The petitioners claimed that the Prime Minister lied about the investments made by his children in offshore companies, which led to the acquisition of four apartments in London's upscale Park Lane neighbourhood.

The court has disqualified leaders before, holding former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in contempt in 2012 for refusing to re-open corruption investigations into then president Asif Ali Zardari, resulting in his disqualification.

Saadia Toor, associate professor at City University New York, said the scourge of corruption extended far beyond Sharif and offshore wealth. But lawyers for PTI chief Imran Khan argue the paper trail for the funds is nonexistent, and say the onus is on Sharif to prove his relatives did not engage in money laundering.

"How can he [Nawaz] remain the prime minister, what authority does he have?"

Other reports by VgToday

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