Friday Jul 28 2017
Web Desk

Disqualified by SC, Nawaz Sharif steps down as prime minister

Web Desk

ISLAMABAD: Nawaz Sharif stepped down as the prime minister of Pakistan on Friday after being disqualified from holding public office by the Supreme Court in a landmark decision on the Panama Papers case.

Announcing its verdict, the five-member bench unanimously disqualified Nawaz Sharif for failing to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets from UAE-based Capital FZE in his nominations papers for the 2013 General Election, stating that this meant he was not ‘honest’ and ‘truthful’, as per the Constitution.

"It is hereby declared that having failed to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets from Capital FZE Jebel Ali, UAE in his nomination papers filed for the General Elections held in 2013 in terms of Section 12(2)(f) of the Representation of the People Act, 1976 (ROPA), and having furnished a false declaration under solemn affirmation respondent No. 1 Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif is not honest in terms of Section 99(f) of Const. Ps. No. 29-30/2016 & 03/2017. 24 ROPA and Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and therefore he is disqualified to be a Member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)."

In the verdict, all five judges ruled to send references against Nawaz Sharif, his children Maryam, Hussain and Hasan, son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar and Ishaq Dar to an accountability court.

Read more: Panama case judgement

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.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was also ordered to issue a notification declaring the prime minister’s disqualification. The premier was said to be disqualified under Article 62 (1)(f) of the constitution.

Read more: ECP de-notifies Nawaz

The bench also directed that the president should now begin the process of electing a new prime minister in accordance with the law.

In its order, the five-member-bench requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan to nominate a judge of the Supreme Court to supervise and monitor implementation of the judgement and oversee proceedings of NAB and the accountability court.

The bench also commended and appreciated the hard work and efforts made by members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The bench stated that the JIT’s tenure of service would be safeguarded and no adverse action of any nature including transfer and posting shall be taken without informing the monitoring judge nominated by the Supreme Court.

The verdict was announced by the original five-member bench that heard the Panama Papers case from January this year, comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.

The verdict was read out by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan in Courtroom No.1 of the Supreme Court amid much hype.

Read more: Profile of Panama Papers case judges

Strict security arrangements were in place in the capital’s Red Zone – where the Supreme Court is situated – with around 3,000 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary, Islamabad Police, and Punjab Rangers deployed for the purpose.

'Disqualification not on basis of Panama Papers'

Lawmakers from the PML-N held a news conference following the verdict, stressing that the removal of Nawaz Sharif was not on the basis of the Panama Papers.

Khawaja Saad Rafique said that this was not first time the PML-N had been made to bear the brunt of such tactics. According to Rafique, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had tried repeatedly to oust the PML-N government and had used every trick he could.

“Imran Khan, you are nothing more than a pawn,” said Rafique.

Read more: PML-N response to SC verdict

Ahsan Iqbal said Nawaz Sharif had clearly said, during an earlier meeting, that the mandate of the people would be defended and the PML-N would complete its tenure.

"The supporters of PML-N should be proud of their leader, as no one has undergone as much scrutiny as Nawaz Sharif and yet nothing was proven against him except that he could have received money from his son but did not," said Iqbal.

Former Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique speaks with Former Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal (R) and legal advisor to the the Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan (L)/ Reuters

'Beginning of accountability'

PTI Chairman Imran Khan said the verdict of the Supreme Court was the beginning of accountability in Pakistan. Khan thanked the judiciary of Pakistan paying tribute to the judges and terming members of the JIT heroes.

Read more: Khan welcomes SC verdict

"The Supreme Court’s decision has given hope to the people of Pakistan today,” proclaimed the PTI chairman.

Imran Khan speaks during a press conference at his residence in Islamabad/AFP

'Nawaz undermined parliament'

Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed hope that the apex court’s verdict would help in deterring corruption in high offices.

Bilawal stressed that the PPP had always supported democracy, parliament and state institutions.

"Nawaz not presenting himself before the parliament for accountability undermined the house," Bilawal said.

'Nawaz will come back stronger'

Daughter of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan took to Twitter after her father Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court, claiming that he woukld return with 'greater force and support'.

She posted on the microblogging site: "Another elected Prime Minister sent home, but only to see him return with greater force & support & soonest Insha'Allah. Stay strong PMLN."

The premier's daughter stated half an hour later that "Today will pave the way for Nawaz Sharif's resounding victory in 2018. He will be unstoppable. Insha'Allah. Rok sakte ho to rok lo [stop him if you can]!"

Nawaz recommends Shehbaz

During a meeting of PML-N leaders and alliance parties, Nawaz Sharif put forward the name of his brother Shehaz Sharif to be the party’s candidate for the prime minister.

According to reports, a name was not finalised for the interim prime minister, who would fill the 45 day vacuum until Shehbaz Sharif is elected to a National Assembly seat.

Sources have revealed to Geo News that Khawaja Asif or Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would be the interim prime minister.

A final decision is expected after a PML-N meeting on Saturday.

History of Panama Papers case

Hearing the Panama Papers case since January this year, the five-judge Supreme Court bench delivered its much-anticipated order in the case on April 20.

In a 3-2 split decision, the majority judges determined that the available evidence was insufficient to disqualify the prime minister outright and directed for the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the case and collect evidence, if any, showing that "Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or any of his dependents or benamidar owns, possesses or acquired assets or any interest therein disproportionate to their known means of income".

The apex court also observed that after the JIT's final report is presented, "the matter of disqualification [of Nawaz Sharif] shall be considered".

The JIT, formed in light of the apex court's April 20 judgment to probe the Sharif family's money trail, submitted its 60-day investigation report to the court on July 10.

The report highlighted the failure of the Sharif family to provide a money trail for its London apartments and claimed the prime minister and his children own assets beyond their known sources of income.

Following the report's submission, the special bench - headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed - issued notices to the parties to submit their responses.

The special implementation bench reserved its decision on July 21 after hearing arguments over the JIT report from both sides.

In his remarks at the last hearing, Justice Ejaz stated that the bench was already reviewing the matter of the prime minister’s disqualification, while Justice Ijaz remarked that the court would not back down from its decision.

The petitioners included Imran Khan, Sheikh Rasheed, and Sirajul Haq, while the respondents included the Nawaz Sharif, members of his family, as well as several government-related officials and departments.