The Pakistan Supreme Court today ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the role of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members in the high-profile Panama Papers case.
A five-judge bench, comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan granted 60 days’ time to the JIT to table its report.
According to reports in the Pakistan media, the verdict was split 3-2 between the judges, with two ruling in favour of Sharif's dismissal.
The court also ordered Sharif and his two sons – Hasan and Hussain - to appear before the JIT, which would consist of officials from the Federal Investigation Agency, the National Accountability Bureau, the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the Military Intelligence (MI).
The JIT will present its report before the bench after every two weeks.
Celebrations 🎊🎉 pic.twitter.com/CmtquN5KeT— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) April 20, 2017
The case was launched on November 3 and the court held 35 hearings before concluding the proceedings on February 23. The case is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s when he twice served as Prime Minister to purchase assets in London.
The assets surfaced when Panama papers last year showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif's children.
The case in the Supreme Court was based on several identical petitions by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and others about alleged illegal assets of the Prime Minister Sharif's family in London.
A great SC judgement which has completely rejected Nawaz Sharif's entire story.PM shd resign immediately as he has lost all moral authority.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 20, 2017
Want to congratulate the nation on this SC judgement, esp PTI workers who stood steadfast with me throughout. Celebrate your success today.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 20, 2017
According to the judgement, Sharif, 67, survived as majority three judges supported the setting up of JIT to further probe the allegations while two other judges wanted to disqualify the Prime Minister.
The court also ordered that it was important to probe how money was transferred to Qatar.
The five bench also criticised the NAB Chairman who failed to carry out his duty. It said that he was unwilling to perform his duties.
It also said DG Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) failed to probe white collar crimes.
Sharif's supporters hailed the decisions as a victory of justice.
"We have been vindicated as Prime Minister had last year asked to set up a probe commission to investigate Panama leaks scandal," said Khawaja Asif, defence minister and close ally of Prime Minister Sharif.
Earlier, the area around the Supreme Court, located in Islamabad's Red Zone, was put on 'red alert', with around 1,500 police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary personnel deployed for security and maintaining peace.