The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered on Friday to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
Announcing their verdict in the Panama Papers case, all five judges ruled to send a reference against the premier, his three children and others to an accountability court.
The court ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file a reference against the accused in an accountability court in six weeks and directed for the trial to be wrapped up within six months.
Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali told Geo News the prime minister has been disqualified for life — meaning he will not be able to contest elections again.
The NAB reference will also be filed against the finance minister and MNA Capt (retd) Safdar, the premier’s son-in-law.
The verdict was announced by the original five-member bench that heard the landmark case from January this year.
The Election Commission of Pakistan was also ordered to issue the notification declaring the prime minister’s disqualification.
The bench comprised Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
The verdict was read out by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan.
The landmark verdict is being announced in Courtroom 1 of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed and Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq — the petitioners in the case — are present in the court.
Moreover, members of the federal government, as well as other opposition parties, also plan to be present in court.
Strict security measures are in place in the capital’s Red Zone — where the Supreme Court is situated — with around 3,000 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary, Islamabad Police, and Punjab Rangers deployed for the purpose.
The first ‘judgment’
Hearing the Panama Papers case since January year, the five-judge Supreme Court bench delivered its much-anticipated order in the case on April 20.
In a 3-2 split decision, the majority judges determined that the available evidence was insufficient to disqualify the prime minister outright and directed for the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the case and collect evidence, if any, showing that “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or any of his dependents or benamidar owns, possesses or acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to their known means of income”.
The apex court also observed that after the JIT’s final report is presented, “the matter of disqualification [of Nawaz Sharif] shall be considered”.
The JIT report and its aftermath
The JIT, formed in light of the apex court’s April 20 judgment to probe the Sharif family’s money trail, submitted its 60-day investigation report to the court on July 10.
The report highlighted the failure of the Sharif family to provide a money trail for its London apartments and claimed the prime minister and his children own assets beyond their known sources of income.
Following the report’s submission, the special bench — headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed — issued notices to the parties to submit their responses.
The special implementation bench reserved its decision on July 21 after hearing arguments over the JIT report from both sides.
In his remarks at the last hearing, Justice Ejaz stated that the bench was already reviewing the matter of the prime minister’s disqualification, while Justice Ijaz remarked that the court would not back down from its decision.
The petitioners include Imran Khan, Sheikh Rasheed, and Sirajul Haq, while the respondents are the prime minister, members of his family, as well as several government-related officials and departments.
PTI leader Jehangir Tareen spoke to reporters following the Supreme Court verdict.
Tareen said this was a historic decision which came through the efforts of Imran Khan, PTI workers and supporters.
“Pakistanis had lost hope for justice but Imran Khan was the lone person who did not lose hope.”
Tareen added that Pakistan had been rid of a corrupt prime minister, stressing that Nawaz Sharif would have to adhere to the decision of the Supreme Court.
“A foundation for a new Pakistan has been laid.”