Islamabad- Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office on Friday over undeclared assets, falling victim to his family and the so-called “Panama Papers.”
Sharif swiftly resigned but in a statement his spokesman said there were “serious reservations” about the judicial process after the court ordered a criminal probe into his family over allegations stemming from the “Panama Papers” leaks of international offshore companies.
Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, which won a majority in parliament in 2013, is expected to name a new prime minister to hold office until elections due next year.
The court also ordered a criminal investigation into the assets of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, one of Sharif’s closest allies.
Sharif has alleged a conspiracy against him, although he has not named anyone. His allies, however, have privately spoken of elements in the judiciary and the military, with whom Sharif has strained relations, acting against him. The army denies any involvement.
The Supreme Court’s five-member panel ruled unanimously that Sharif should be disqualified, enacting little-used Article 62 of the Constitution which allows dismissal of any lawmaker found to be dishonest.
Sharif has always denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the investigation into him as biased and inaccurate.
“This is not accountability, it is revenge,” tweeted Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq hours before the verdict.
“In an effort dislodge us, the democratic system has been made a target.”
The Supreme Court ruled in April there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office – by a 3-2 verdict – but it ordered a probe by an investigative panel that included members of the military intelligence agencies.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) this month returned its findings in a 254-report that said Sharif’s family assets do not match their earnings. The panel also accused his children, including daughter Maryam, of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of the London flats.
According to Agence France Presse, the scandal erupted last year when a trove of 11.5 million digital records from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed how many of the world’s wealthy used offshore companies to stash assets.
Three of Sharif’s four children — including Maryam, his presumptive political heir — were implicated in the papers.
Sharif will oversee the nomination of his successor who will then be rubber stamped in a parliamentary vote, where his party and coalition partners command a 209-seat majority in the 342-seat house.
The opposition is also expected to field a candidate for the premiership, though the nominee has almost no chance of getting sufficient votes.