Court Starts Hearings to Decide Prime Minister's Future

PPP leader Sherry Rehman outside the Supreme Court

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in a serious situation after the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) found that the ruling family has been living beyond its means and has failed to provide a legitimate trail of its investments overseas.

The top court could put Sharif on trial on corruption charges or even disqualify him, but few expect the judges to dismiss the case after JIT appointed by the court tabled a damaging 254-page report into his family wealth.

Maryam and her brothers were named previous year in the Panama Papers leak as owners of offshore companies used to buy luxury flats in London, prompting opposition politician Imran Khan to threaten mass protests unless the Supreme Court investigated.

Khawja Harris on behalf of Sharif filed a response to the JIT report, rejecting its findings and accusing it of bias and violation of the original mandate. The JIT also suggested that keeping in view the fresh, very strong and comprehensive documentary evidence, money trail and banking record, an appeal should be filed in the Supreme Court against the LHC judgment in which it had set aside a 2000 reference against the Prime Minister relating to the Hudabiya Paper Mills. The apex court had taken up the case in October a year ago on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami, and had reserved the verdict in February 2017.

Earlier, Naeem Bokhari representing Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in his arguments appreciated the JIT and asked the court to implement the report and disqualify the Prime Minister.

The sensational reports are emerging at a time when the much hyped Panama papers case is entering its final round as the three-member bench of the apex court has resumed hearing from Monday (today).

Pakistan Army's spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that the joint investigation team was formed by Supreme Court, "which did its job honestly".

The senior government source said NAB investigations tend to last many years - Sharif has an active case against him dating back to 1999 - and NAB's conviction rates were notoriously low. Exactly 24 years ago, Nawaz Sharif was removed from office on nearly the same charges he is facing today.

The findings of the JIT are not just damning for the ruling party, but also for the country's democracy.

Mr Sharif, 67, serving his third term as Prime Minister, is facing opposition calls to step down over corruption allegations. "He lied to the cabinet, his family, and the entire public", he said.

The JI chief further said that the PanamaLeaks had listed around six hundred persons and all of them must be brought to accountability.

These companies, it said, were mainly used for "inflow of funds into UK-based companies, which not only acquired expensive properties in UK from such funds but also revolve these funds amongst their companies of United Kingdom (UK), Saudi Arab, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan". "The entire nation, the PTI, the lawyers, everyone stands with the court", he said.

He said that there should be screening of politicians in the light of the articles 62 and 63 so that no corrupt element could get into Parliament.

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