By FutureLaw Desk
The Supreme Court of Pakistan removed Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister from his office in a unanimous verdict over corruption allegations. The verdict by the five-member bench of the Court caps a year of political controversy over corruption allegations against Mr. Sharif and his family which was unleashed by the 2016 Panama Papers Leak incident. With elections due next year, the verdict of the Court will throw the governing party and the country at large into a potential turmoil.
It is the most serious political ramification yet of the Panama Papers leak, which detailed financial dealings by the global elites orchestrated by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Dozens of senior government figures worldwide were among those identified in the leaked files as the controllers or beneficiaries of offshore interests. The UK’s HMRC placed 22 people under investigation and it was reported last month that German tax authorities had paid several million euros to acquire its own copy of the information. Sharif is the second head of government to have lost office in the Panama Papers scandal, which in April 2016 forced out the Icelandic prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, after he and his wife were revealed to have held bonds in collapsed Icelandic banks through an offshore company.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which is the ruling party of the country stated that Sharif had stepped down immediately. An interim prime minister will be soon appointed who needs to be accepted by parliament.
The Panama Papers linked the children of Nawaz Sharif to the purchase of London property through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands in the early 1990s. At that time the children were minors, and the purchase is assumed to have been made by Sharif himself.
The Supreme Court now referred all material gathered in the investigation to the court of the national accountability bureau, and recommended opening cases against Sharif, his three children, Mariam, Hassan and Hussain, his son-in-law Muhammad Safdar and his finance minister Ishaq Dar. The Supreme Court had also asked the members of the Sharif family to provide a paper trail of the money they used to buy their London apartments. Investigators found that they were “living beyond their means.”
The case against the Sharif family took a turn in July when forensic experts cast doubt on documents central to the defence of the prime minister’s daughter, Mariam Nawaz Sharif, who claimed she was only a trustee of the companies that bought the London flats. The documents were dated to 2006 but appear to have used a font, Microsoft Calibri, that was available only from 2007, raising suspicions that they were forged.
As a reaction to the verdict, Asma Jahangir, a prominent lawyer of Pakistan told the Guardian that “the judgment has caused cracks in the walls of supreme court because it is so unique. It will create doubts about whether it is a political judgment,” she said.