Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday ordered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down and ruled that graft cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal.
It is the third time the 67-year-old veteran politician's term as premier has been cut short.
As the unanimous verdict by the five-judge bench was read out by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan inside the packed courtroom 1 of the Supreme Court, a large number of opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf workers celebrated outside.
The Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, in a swipe at Sharif, tweeted, "Godfather's Rule has ended for good! Truth & Justice have prevailed!"
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 Member of National Assembly (MNA), also stood disqualified from office, Justice Khan said.
This is the third time the prime minister has been unable to complete his term as premier. However, it was unclear as to who will take over the post till the next general elections, which are scheduled for 2018.
"He is disqualified as a member of the parliament so he has ceased to be holding the office of Prime Minister", Justice Khan said. The court ordered Election Commission to issue a notification for Sharif's disqualification.
The court also ordered the National Accountability Court to start a corruption case against Sharif, his children — Hussain and Hassan — and his daughter Maryam.
The Supreme Court ordered that the cases against them be registered within six weeks and trial be completed within six months.
The scandal is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s, when he twice served as prime minister, to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when Panama Papers leak last year revealed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif's children.
The assets include four expensive flats in London.
Sharif has been the prime minister of Pakistan for a record three times. He leads Pakistan's most powerful political family and the ruling PML-N party.
A steel tycoon-cum-politician, Sharif had served as the Pakistan's prime minister for the first time from 1990 to 1993. His second term from 1997 was ended in 1999 by army chief Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup.
In May, the Supreme Court set up a six-member joint investigation team (JIT) to investigate the charges against Sharif and his family. The JIT submitted its report to the court on 10 July.
It said the lifestyle of Sharif and his children were beyond their known sources of income, and recommended filing of a new corruption case against them.
Sharif dismissed the report as a "bundle of baseless allegations" and refused to quit, despite demands to do so from several quarters, including opposition political parties.
On 21 July, the court reserved its verdict after concluding the hearing.
The six-member JIT was set up with a mandate to probe the Sharif family for allegedly failing to provide the trail of money used to buy properties in London in the 1990s.
The top court took up the case in October last year on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami and reserved the verdict in February after conducting hearings on a daily basis.
The five-judge bench that issued the verdict comprised — Justices Asif Saeed, Khosa Khan, Gulzar Ahmed, Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Ijazul Ahsan.
The court took up the case on 3 November last year and held 35 hearings spanning over more
Updated Date: Jul 28, 2017 14:25 PM