Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered further investigations into corruption allegations leveled by the opposition against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying there was insufficient evidence to order his removal from office.
The court late last year launched an investigation into Sharif’s family’s offshore wealth after opposition politicians threatened to launch street protests.
The opposition accuses Sharif of failing to explain the source of money in offshore companies owned by his children and of lying to parliament.
Sharif and his family have denied wrongdoing.
NAN reports that on Wednesday the Court’s decision that could disqualify Sharif over corruption allegations had the country on edge, as a drawn-out investigation related to the “Panama Papers” leaks neared a conclusion.
Disqualifying Sharif would have left his party in power, but it would cause intense turmoil at a time when Pakistan is experiencing modest growth and improved security after years of violence, and the civilian government and powerful military have appeared to come to uneasy terms.
Sharif has denied any wrongdoing, but the Supreme Court agreed to investigate his family’s offshore wealth late last year after opposition leader Imran Khan threatened street protests.
Both the government and opposition had expressed confidence on Wednesday.
“There is no chance that decision will come against our leadership.
“Our government and entire leadership are performing their duties as per routine,” Talal Chaudhry a prominent leader of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz told Geo Television.
Naeem ul Haque, a spokesman for Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said he expected a verdict against Sharif, but he made clear the opposition would not launch a new street movement if they were disappointed.
“Imran Khan has clearly stated that we will accept the decision of the Supreme Court, but we believe that enough evidence has been presented to remove the prime minister and that a verdict should be reached that is based on the evidence,” he said.
In 2014, Khan led a months-long protest that paralyzed the government quarter in the capital, Islamabad, after rejecting Sharif’s decisive election win a year earlier.
The case stems from documents leaked from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London.
Sharif told parliament in 2016 that his family wealth was acquired legally in the decades before he entered politics and that no money was siphoned off-shore.
Khan, however, has argued that the prime minister’s lawyers have changed stories on the source of the offshore money several times and that it is up to Sharif to prove the offshore companies were not used for money laundering.
Corruption is endemic in Pakistan, which ranks a dismal 116th out of 176 in Transparency International’s annual index of the world’s most graft-ridden countries.(Reuters/NAN)