Panamagate Case: Sharif steps down as Pak PM after SC verdict
Islamabad [Pakistan], July 28 (ANI): Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stepped down from his post on Friday, hours after the country's Supreme Court delivered a guilty verdict against him and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in connection with the Panama Papers Leaks case.
Geo News quoted a PML-N spokesman, as saying that the Supreme Court of Pakistan's order to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, required both of them to step down from their respective offices.
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.
According to sources, Nawaz Sharif is chairing a meeting to decide on the appointment of a new premier.
Sharif expressed sorrow over the Supreme Court's decision, sources told Geo News.
Sharif is likely to make the decision to appoint a new prime minister after consulting with legal experts, sources added.
Earlier, legal aides, advisers and federal ministers were present at the PM House where Sharif heard the verdict of the Panama Papers case.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Governors of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were also present in the meeting.
PML-N leaders - before the verdict's announcement - stated that the government wants the Parliament to complete its tenure.
The ruling party put up a brave front by emphatically stating that disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's political career was far from over and predicted that he would bounce back from the adverse verdict delivered by the Supreme Court with regard to the Panama Papers Leaks case.
While admitting that it was a difficult time for the PML-N and expressing awarenesss about the opposition being in celebratory mode over the verdict, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was quoted by the Dawn, as saying, "This is a difficult time for the PML-N. But the power to make party decisions will remain with Nawaz Sharif."
State Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb was quoted, as saying, "Nawaz does not neeed a chair, he is a reality. That day is not far, when he will be chosen for the fourth time."
Aurangzeb added: "Some decisions happen in court, others in peoples courts. We may have lost one decision... which I am not surprised about but am saddened."
"PML-N is Pakistan's biggest political party. It has the higest number of political workers. And history is a witness that whenever Nawaz Sharif was removed unjustly, the people of Pakistan brought him back to parliament with a greater majority."
She also said that the party will announce its plan after looking at the decision in detail.
Senior lawyer Asma Jehangir said the court's decision should be accepted, but there is room for criticism.
"After his decision, a lot of cracks have emerged which will keep the judiciary on its feet for a very long time," Jehangir was quoted by Geo News.
"I think that Zia ul Haq and Iftikhar Chaudhry have returned. It will become difficult for others and the court...The parliament will think that the apex court has always decided against us and 184(3) powers have reached a point where anyone can be disqualified, the parliament will look to amend it."
She added: "This is a unique decision. It has had a unique procedure. In courts it happens that there is a set pattern but the way this case has happened is not normal." Friday's decision means that this was he third time Prime Minister Sharif was unable to complete his term in office.
What is currently clear is that the Election Commission of Pakistan will have to de-notify the prime minister to fulfill the technicalities of implementing the order.
Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who had headed the apex court's implementation bench following its April 20 order on the Panama Papers case, announced that the larger bench had unanimously deemed Prime Minister Sharif from holding office and would also order an accountability court to open a case against him.
The unanimous judgement was announced shortly after 12 p.m. local time.
Justice Khan said the bench had recommended that all material collected by the joint investigation team (JIT) tasked with probing the Sharif family's financial dealings would be sent to an accountability court within six weeks.
The bench said that on the basis of this information, cases would be opened against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar; MNA Captain Muhammad Safdar; Maryam, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz; as well as Prime Minister Sharif.
A judgement on these references should be announced within 30 days, he said.
One judge will oversee the implementation of this order.
The prime minister was disqualified from holding his office as the judges ruled that he had been dishonest to parliament and the courts and could not be deemed fit for his office.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Captain Safdar, who is an MNA, also stood disqualified from office, Justice Khan said.
From Friday morning, all eyes were on Courtroom No. 1 of the Supreme Court in Islamabad, where a five-judge bench was set to announce the much-awaited verdict on the Panama Papers case at 11:30am. The proceedings started around half an hour later.
The original five-member bench of the Supreme Court which heard the Panama Papers case issued the final verdict. Justices Asif Saeed Khosa, Ejaz Afzal Khan, Gulzar Ahmed, Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Ijazul Ahsan were present for the hearing.
According to media reports, the courtroom was filled to capacity as prominent politicians, lawyers and journalists crowded the room to hear the judges decide Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's fate.
The twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi had been on high alert in anticipation of the verdict.
The Red Zone had also been partially sealed and people were only being allowed inside after undergoing identification and strict security checks.
Over the last few days, Pakistan's citizens had been awaiting the apex court's verdict with bated breath.
Gossip, speculation and rumours had been rife over when the final verdict would be announced and what conclusion the judges would arrive at. The most important question of all remained whether the prime minister would be unseated or not.
On Thursday evening, the Supreme Court office had put all speculation to rest when it issued a supplementary cause list heralding the announcement of the judgement on Friday.
On the announcement that the larger bench would deliver the judgement, legal observers took the view that the earlier minority judgement, which recommended sending the prime minister packing, may become a majority view in case even one of the three majority judges ruled against the prime minister. (ANI)
This story has not been edited. It has been published as provided by ANI
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