Top court rejects call to oust Sharif
Prime minister will remain in office, but ‘isn’t off the hook yet’
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s highest court on Thursday ordered an investigation into offshore wealth held by the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but it stopped short of removing him from office over allegations of corruption and money laundering.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the accusations, which stemmed from documents leaked in 2016 from a Panama-based law firm, was a bitter disappointment to opposition parties, which had counted on the court to remove Sharif.
Last April, the so-called Panama Papers revealed that three of Sharif’s children controlled shell companies through which they owned expensive residential properties in London. Opposition parties accused Sharif of financial wrongdoing and money laundering, which he and his family denied.
In a 3-2 decision, the majority on the court found there was not enough evidence of corruption or financial crimes to remove Sharif from office. But all five magistrates raised questions about the source of the money used to buy four apartments in London.
There was no immediate statement from Sharif, but his daughter and presumed political heir, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, posted pictures on Twitter of her smiling father embracing and celebrating with relatives and party leaders.
The 540-page ruling fell short of the bombshell Sharif’s opponents had hoped for, allowing him to remain in office while his party, the Pakistan Muslim LeagueNawaz, competes in general elections next year. But it left the 67-year-old prime minister politically diminished and the Muslim League vulnerable at the polls.
“Nawaz Sharif isn’t off the hook yet, but given how concerned the government was about Sharif getting disqualified, it could have been much worse,” said Michael Kugelman, a Pakistan expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “The government received a fairly hard slap on the wrist, but ultimately it survived.”
Imran Khan, Pakistan’s most prominent opposition politician, demanded that Sharif step down while the investigation proceeded.