ISLAMABAD: One of the most powerful Prime Ministers in the history of Pakistan was shown the door on Friday. Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by a five-member bench of the country’s Supreme Court after a corruption probe into his family’s ill-gotten wealth, cutting short his third stint in power. Including this exit, none of the 18 prime ministers who served Pakistan managed to complete their full term in office.
The five-judge bench unanimously disqualified Sharif for failing to disclose his ‘un-withdrawn’ salary as the chairman of UAE-based offshore company Capital FZE. “He is no more eligible to be an honest member of Parliament, and he ceases to be holding the office of Prime Minister,” justice Ejaz Afzal Khan said, according to Pakistani daily Express Tribune.
The trial was based on the Panama Papers leaks that revealed three of Sharif’s children owned offshore companies and assets not shown in his family’s wealth statement. The companies were allegedly used to channel funds to acquire foreign assets, including some apartments along Park Lane in London’s Mayfair area.
Sharif, according to sources, has recommended his brother as the replacement. “After a consultative session of the PML-N, Shahbaz Sharif has come forward as the most likely candidate to be the next Prime Minister after an interim premier has served the 45-day period,” Geo News reported. Shahbaz Sharif is currently the Chief Minister of Punjab. A name has not been announced for the interim Prime Minister, who will fill the 45-day vacuum until Shahbaz Sharif is elected to a National Assembly seat. Sources said PML-N is expected to finalise the name for the interim Prime Minister on Saturday.
This is the third time Nawaz Sharif has been ousted before completing his term. He was sacked in 1993 by the President over graft allegations and ousted in a military coup in 1999. It’s also the second time the apex court has disqualified a Prime Minister, after Yousaf Raza Gilani, who was sacked in 2012 for contempt of court.
The verdict sent shock waves among leaders of the ruling PML-N. “Another elected Prime Minister has been sent home,” tweeted his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif. The disqualification, she claimed, wouldn’t deter her father from staging a comeback. “Today will pave the way for Nawaz Sharif’s resounding victory in 2018. He will be unstoppable. Insha’Allah. Stop him, if you can!”
Maryam, Sharif’s 43-year-old daughter, is seen by many as his political heir. However, she could also be facing heat soon as the top court has ordered a corruption case against her and her siblings Hussain and Hassan. The court has ordered the cases to be registered within six weeks and the trial to be completed within six months.
Pakistani media showed crowds assembled outside the court cheering when the verdict was announced. Opposition supporters erupted in applause, rushing to the streets, chanting slogans and handing out sweets.