Top court re­jects call to oust Sharif

Prime min­is­ter will re­main in of­fice, but ‘isn’t off the hook yet’

The Dallas Morning News - - WORLD - The New York Times,

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.

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