ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday disqualified the three-time elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in historic Panama Papers Case, an unprecedented development as no highest executive authority had ever been dismissed in the Country before on Corruption Charges.
It was an unanimous decision announced by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijaz Ul Hassan.
The most-awaited Panama verdict was announced by Justice Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan at Court Room No 1 of the Supreme Court.
The five-member bench disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif under article 62 (1-f) of the Constitution, and ruled that he failed to prove his assets before the Court; hence couldn’t remain ‘Sadiq and Ameen’.
The Supreme Court also ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to immediately de-seat Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The bench also unanimously announced the disqualification of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and member of National Assembly Captain (retd) Safdar.
In its order, the bench also ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file references in six weeks against Nawaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar, Captain (retd) Safdar, Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz in light of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) report.
The Court asked President Mamnoon Hussain to follow the Constitution to continue the democratic process.
The verdict had been reserved by a three-member Implementation bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan on July 21 after petitioners and defendants concluded their arguments during five days following the submitting of JIT report in the apex court.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over a consultative meeting on Panama decision. The federal ministers and important leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) participated in the meeting.
Talking to media outside the Supreme Court, the State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb said that we have been hopeful since the day first. She said that our moral is high and we believe in Allah.
“PM Nawaz Sharif will succeed,” the minister expressed hope.
Separately talking to media, the Spokesman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Fawad Chaudhry said that Imran Khan has no personal enmity with Sharif’s family. He said hat Sharif’s family failed to provide source of income.
Fawad Chaudhry said that Sharif’s family had opportunities to defend. He added that it is responsibility of the opposition to keep eye on the government.
The leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and a number of media persons were present in the Court when the Panama judgement was announced.
Special security arrangements had been put in place for the Supreme Court on Constitutional Avenue wherein Police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary personnel were deployed at and surrounding of the Court building.
Likewise, only those, having passes issued by Registrar of the Supreme Court, were allowed to enter the Court premises. No unauthorized person was even allowed to enter the Red Zone.
It took almost one year and four months to bring an end to Panama Papers Scam in Pakistan after the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) brought 11.5 million documents to surface sourced from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca on April 3 last year.
The leaked documents also contained information about British Virgin Islands-based two Offshore Companies Nielsen Enterprises Limited and Nescoll Limited, which owns Sharif family’s four Park Lane flats in London.
The Panama revelations brought about a storm in Pakistan’s politics and under immense pressure from the Opposition, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presented himself and his family for accountability.
However, parliamentary efforts to prepare Terms of Reference (ToRs) to form a Commission for Panama probe went in vain for next several months. Therefore, the Opposition led by PTI approached the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
JI and Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed were the other petitioners in the Case.
The hearing of Panama Papers Case began on November 1, 2016 by a five-member Bench headed by the then Chief Justice Zaheer Anwar Jamali, and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Justice Ijaz Ul Hassan. But the Bench ceased to hear the Case after December 9 because of the retirement of Justice Jamali.
Therefore, a new five-member bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan was constituted to hear Panama Papers Case.
The new bench resumed the hearing of the Panama Papers Case from January 4, 2017 on a daily basis, and reserved its judgement on February 23 following the 26th hearing of the Case since the formation of new bench.
In its interim order announced on April 20, the bench announced the establishment of a JIT to further probe the Panama Case which would complete its investigation in two months. The JIT included representatives from Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and State Bank of Pakistan.
However, two judges Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmad wrote their dissenting notes in the verdict, ordering disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif under article 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
The names of JIT members were finalized on May 5, and the Additional Director in FIA was made its head.
During the investigation by the JIT, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also appeared before the investigation team on June 15 and recorded his statement.
The six-member JIT presented its final report to the three-member implementation bench on July 10 in which it recommended to the Supreme Court to send a reference in the NAB against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Children.
The bench resumed its hearing of the Case during which petitioners and defendants submitted their concluding arguments, and eventually the bench reserved the verdict on July 21.
On Thursday (July 27), the Supreme Court announced the give its verdict in Panama Papers Case at 11:00 am on July 28.
During the whole process, it took 273 days (or 150 hours) to register a total of 50 hearings of Panama Papers Case while the JIT took 60 days to complete its investigation.
The Supreme Court asked 307 questions to both the parties, and received 14,000 papers. Similarly, lawyers representing various concerned parties in the Case cited 315 previous cases in the Court.
Prior to it, then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani of PPP was also disqualified by the Supreme Court in 2012; however, his disqualification came in a Contempt of Court Case. But no prime minister in Pakistan’s history was ever disqualified by the Supreme Court on Corruption Charges particularly in a civilian regime.