ISLAMABAD – Pakistan Prime Minister Mian Muhammed Nawaz Sharif might go home this afternoon as Pakistan’s Supreme Court is set to determine the prime minister’s fate on Thursday afternoon.
It’s alleged that the prime minister was involved in corruption and the ruling by the Apex court could see him ousted from power after the Panama Papers linked his family to offshore businesses.
The decision is expected to plunge Nawaz Sharif’s governing party into turmoil ahead of general elections next year, and as security and the economy improve in the militancy-plagued country.
The controversy erupted with the publication of the so-called Panama Papers last year, 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca which documented the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful.
Among the global elite implicated were three of Sharif’s four children – his daughter and presumptive political heir Maryam, and his sons Hasan and Hussein.
At the heart of the matter is the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies. The prime minister failed to provide the sources of funds for these flats.
The government claimed the wealth was acquired legally through family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.
The lawyers for PTI leader Imran Khan argue the paper trail for the funds is non-existent, and say the onus is on Sharif to prove his relatives did not engage in money laundering.
The case has dominated headlines in Pakistan for the better part of a year, though many observers believe the court – which has emphasised it is not conducting a criminal trial – would be reluctant to directly oust Sharif.
It has taken such action before, however. In 2012, the Supreme Court held Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in contempt for refusing to re-open corruption investigations into then President Asif Ali Zardari, resulting in his disqualification.
It is possible that the five-member bench could also potentially direct law enforcement agencies to carry out more detailed investigations into the allegations against Sharif, verbally censure him or his children, or clear him entirely.
Regardless of the outcome, it is believed that the case is important for Pakistan, which ranked a lowly 116th place out of 176 countries in a corruption index released by Transparency International in January.
The controversy is the latest to hit Sharif, an industrialist who is serving his third term as Prime Minister after the first two were interrupted by interventions from the country’s powerful military.