Nawaz Sharif Resigns as Pakistan’s Prime Minister

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has dismissed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif following an investigation into corruption allegations

Pakistan’s Supreme Court today disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on charges of holding disproportionate assets as revealed by a joint investigation team (JIT). The evidence that was submitted by the JIT has implicated not only Sharif, but also his entire family, including his daughter Maryam.

Sharif has stepped down as Prime Minister of Pakistan, despite the fact that he had assured Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) workers that he would not resign because he was elected by the people and his duty lies to them.

In court, Judge Ejz Afzal Khan said, “He is no more eligible to be an honest member of the parliament, and he ceases to be holding the office of Prime Minister.” The court also ordered a criminal investigation against the premier and his family.

Speaking to a Pakistani daily, Dawn, many Opposition leaders have congratulated the courts, saying that this is a true example of Pakistan’s vibrant democracy.

Sharif, 67, has always denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the investigation into corruption allegations against him as biased and inaccurate.

Sharif’s allies have alleged there was a conspiracy to unseat him.
“This is not accountability, it is revenge,” tweeted Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq hours before the verdict was announced. “In an effort to dislodge us, the democratic system has been made a target.”

Sharif’s two previous stints in power were also cut short, including by a military coup in 1999, but he came back from exile to win a resounding victory in the 2013 general elections. His ruling PML-N party, which has a majority in the Parliament, is now expected to appoint a new Prime Minister.

Ishqar Dar, who was Sharif’s former accountant, had submitted documents to the Supreme Court about how the Sharif family obtained their wealth. The documents also included a portfolio of upscale London properties.

Dar has been considered one of the most influential people in Sharif’s Cabinet who is credited with bringing the economy on to a more sure footing after the 2013 balance of payments crisis. He too has resigned.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan once again skipped the the PML-N plenary meeting after the conclusion of the hearing against Sharif. Media reports said that since he was busy with some work in Punjab House, he was not able to attend the meeting. Prime Minister’s Adviser Barrister Zafarullah told The Dawn that it was only a routine meeting in which they discussed the Panama Papers case.

He also said the meeting did not consider the option of a new Prime Minister. He said Sharif and the PML-N’s legal team were satisfied that the Prime Minister would not be affected by the Supreme Court’s verdict as the investigation team could not establish Sharif’s direct links with the offshore properties owned by the family.

On the other hand, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah told Geo TV that the hunt for a new Prime Minister should be started. “He needs to decide by tonight to resign so he can maintain dignity. If he wants to convey his innocence he should. We do not want to get into that debate. But the decision needs to be made tonight before the Supreme Court verdict.”

Shah emphasised that the PPP wanted the Parliament to complete its tenure and for a new Prime Minister to come. “We have never demanded that the government or assembly be dissolved.” On Nisar’s issue, Shah said he agreed with the Interior Minister’s objections. “[My] differences with Nisar aside, his objections are correct that Nawaz Sharif consulted with junior members of his party and ignored the senior leadership.”