Updated Jul 28, 2017 10:07pm

Nawaz Sharif steps down as PM after SC's disqualification verdict

Dawn.com | Haseeb Bhatti

A reference against him will also be opened for possessing assets and funds beyond his known sources of income.

Court appreciates JIT's efforts

The judges "commended and appreciated" the hard work and efforts made by members of the JIT in preparing and filing a comprehensive and detailed report.

"Their tenure of service shall be safeguarded and protected and no adverse action of any nature including transfer and posting shall be taken against them without informing the monitoring Judge of this Court nominated by the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan," reads the court order.

The lead up

The original five-member bench of the Supreme Court which heard the Panama Papers case — comprising Justices Asif Saeed Khosa, Ejaz Afzal Khan, Gulzar Ahmed, Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Ijazul Ahsan — announced the much-awaited verdict in Courtroom No. 1 shortly after 12pm.

According to media reports, the courtroom was filled to capacity as prominent politicians, lawyers and journalists crowded the room to hear the judges decide Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's fate.

The twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were on high alert in anticipation of the SC verdict while the Red Zone was partially sealed.

Paramilitary soldiers and policemen cordon off the main entrance of the Supreme Court building.— AFP

Rangers and Frontier Constabulary personnel were deployed at the Supreme Court and the Red Zone to assist the police.

April 20 order and JIT investigation

The April 20 judgement issued by the larger bench in the Panama Papers case had been split 3-2 among the five judges, with two dissenting notes from Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed. Justice Ejaz Afzal authored the majority opinion in the 540-page judgement.

The two judges who ruled against PM Nawaz Sharif had said he should be disqualified as he could not be considered 'honest' and 'truthful' (ameen and sadiq), whereas the other three were in favour of forming a joint investigation team (JIT) to definitively answer the question of whether the allegations against the prime minister were true or not.

The court had further said that: "upon receipt of the reports, periodic or final of the JIT, as the case may be, the matter of disqualification of respondent No. 1 [Nawaz Sharif] shall be considered. If found necessary for passing an appropriate order in this behalf, [Nawaz Sharif or any other person may be summoned and examined."

A special bench of the Supreme Court was subsequently constituted to examine the case under Section 184/3 of the Constitution. The bench comprised the three judges who had prevailed.

The Supreme Court had on May 6 formed the JIT, putting a senior officer of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in charge.

After considering the background and antecedents of the officer, FIA’s Additional Director General Wajid Zia, a grade 21 officer, was appointed head of the probe team.

Amer Aziz of the State Bank of Pakistan, Executive Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Bilal Rasool, National Accountability Bureau Director Irfan Naeem Mangi, Brig Muha­mmad Nauman Saeed of Inter-Services Intelligence and Brig Kamran Khurshid of the Military Intelligence were appointed as the remaining members of the team.

The six-member JIT's damning report, submitted after a 60-day investigation that sought answers to 13 questions raised by the Supreme Court's larger bench, had maintained that Prime Minister’s family owned assets beyond its known sources of income. It declared that both Hussain and Hassan Nawaz were used as proxies to build family assets.

Consequently, the six-man JIT concluded that it was compelled to refer to sections 9(a)(v) and 14(c) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, which deal with corruption and corrupt practices, though such charges are yet to be proven in an accountability court.

The JIT report also highlighted Articles 122, 117, 129 and other sections of the Qanoon-i-Shahadat Order 1984 (Law of Evidence), which places the burden of disproving the allegations on the person facing accusations.

The JIT pointed out failure on the part of the Sharifs to produce the required information that would confirm their “known sources of income”, saying that prima facie, it amounted to saying that they were not able to reconcile their assets with their means of income.

The prime minister's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, had on the same evening issued a strongly-worded statement on behalf of the PML-N, saying:

"JIT report REJECTED. Every contradiction will not only be contested but decimated in SC. NOT a penny of public exchequer involved: PMLN."

Her tweet followed a press conference conducted by four senior PML-N leaders, who had taken turns to criticise the JIT report as 'serving Imran Khan's agenda'.

The Sharif family's legal team's strategy in subsequent hearings had focused on discrediting the report, the evidence collected and the means used to do so, and raising questions about the impartiality and capability of the six men who had comprised the JIT.

Additional reporting by Naveed Siddiqui and Javed Hussain

Correction: This story has been amended to reflect that Ishaq Dar and Capt Muhammad Safdar have not been disqualified from their membership of the National Assembly; rather the Supreme Court has only ordered separate references to be opened against both. The error is regretted.

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