Pakistani policemen stand guard at the premisses of the Supreme Court building during a hearing on the Panama Papers case in Islamabad on July 28, 2017.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister required to step downby five-member panel of judges
Unanimous court ruling follows months-long investigation tied to revelations in the Panama Papers leak from 2016
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN)Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified from office by the country’s Supreme Court and will be required to step down.
The court ruled Sharif has been dishonest to parliament and to the judicial system and is no longer deemed fit for the office of prime minister. A panel of five judges announced their unanimous decision Friday afternoon.
The panel had been investigating Sharif’s alleged links to offshore accounts and overseas properties owned by three of his children.
The assets, which were not declared on the family’s wealth statement, were revealed in the massive Panama Papers leak in April 2016.
Although Nawaz Sharif was not named in the Panama Papers, a joint investigation committee formed by the Supreme Court in April 2017 concluded in mid-July that their investigation revealed incriminating documents that pointed to the prime minister and his family’s corruption.
The Panama Papers leak sparked mass protests in Pakistan and calls from opposition political groups for a panel to investigate him and his children over their alleged offshore accounts.
Supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) take part in a protest against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on July 23, 2017.
Today’s verdict is the second Supreme Court ruling this year on Sharif. In April a five-judge panel formed by Pakistan’s Supreme Court delivered a ruling ordering a new investigation over corruption allegations.
This is the first time in the country’s history that a leader has been disqualified from office following a judicial process.
During his time in office there’s been economic growth, a marked drop in terrorism and a bold foreign policy initiative which has led to strong ties with neighboring China and the formation of the strategically important China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Known as the “Lion of Punjab,” the 68-year-old Sharif is one of Pakistan’s leading industrialists and richest men, as well as being a fearsome political operative — having served as prime minister twice before.
However, his long political career has been dogged with missteps and allegations of corruption, which already forced him to step down during his first time as prime minister, cutting his first term short after his family-owned business, Ittefaq Industries, was seen to grow tremendously during his tenure in office.
Re-elected in 1997, Sharif ordered Pakistan’s first nuclear tests but a showdown with the nation’s powerful military saw his second term end prematurely as well.
In 1999, Sharif fired then-army head Pervez Musharraf after a failed invasion of Kargil, in Indian-held Kashmir. But in a dramatic turnaround, Musharraf launched a coup and eventually had his former boss imprisoned on charges of hijacking for attempting to stop a plane carrying the general from landing.
Sharif was later sentenced to an additional 14-years in prison on corruption charges, but was released after six months when Riyadh brokered a deal to allow him to go into exile in Saudi Arabia.
In 2007, Sharif returned to his homeland after his Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) teamed up with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to force Musharraf out of office.
After some legal and constitutional wrangling Sharif was re-elected prime minister for a third time in 2013, amid accusations of rigging the elections.
From Panama to Pakistan
The latest and final nail in Sharif’s political coffin is not of his own making, but rather the financial improprieties of his children.
While owning property in itself is not illegal, opposition parties have questioned if the money to buy them came from public funds.
And while Sharif was not personally named, his three adult children were linked to offshore companies that owned the London properties. One British Virgin Islands holding firm listed his daughter, Maryam as the sole shareholder.
A taskforce called the Joint Investigation Team was created in April by the Supreme Court since it was unable to independently determine the links to corruption. At the time Sharif pledged that if anything from the investigation proved corruption, he would step down.
Speaking at a press conference at the Saudi embassy here on Thursday, the Saudi charge d’affaires said Pakistani “prime minister did not say he was mediating”.
He was speaking through a translator. He rejected media reports about the Pakistani mediation effort as untrue. “Whatsoever is in the media is not correct,” he said.
Says Kuwait and Sudan are making reconciliation efforts
Last week Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif travelled to Jeddah on a daylong trip along with Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz accompanied them.
The acting ambassador’s statement puts the prime minister in a potentially embarrassing position. The PM’s Office had, in a statement before Mr Sharif’s departure on the mediation mission, said: “Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif will visit Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today in context of the emergent situation among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.”
The crisis in the Gulf started late last month with the hacking of the website of the Qatari news agency and peaked when Saudi Arabia and its allies Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates severed ties with Qatar over allegations of promoting extremism and terrorism and hindering efforts to contain Iran.
The Saudi diplomat said the crisis happened because Qatar had been persistently violating a 2014 accord between Qatar and GCC countries. Although the 2014 accord, which had then paved the way for resumption of ties between Qatar and its neighbours, is not public, it is said to be a commitment by the signatories about non-interference in each other’s affairs, cooperation on regional issues and ending support for extremist groups.
Mr Marwan said Mr Sharif, while travelling to Saudi Arabia, did not indicate the purpose of his visit.
The acting envoy separately noted that Kuwait and Sudan were making reconciliation efforts.
Pressed by the media, he said: “There is, however, a possibility that the issue could be discussed in some future meeting. Leadership of both countries is currently in Makkah.”
As per media reports, the prime minister’s mediation effort was not encouraged by the Saudi royal family. Saudi king Salman bin Abdul Aziz had told Mr Sharif that “the fight against extremism and terrorism is in the interest of all Muslims and the Ummah”.
The Saudi government usually does not acknowledge Pakistani endeavours for resolving disputes in the Gulf.
PM Sharif had undertaken a similar effort last year to reduce tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the aftermath of execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr.
However, soon after PM Sharif’s visit to the two countries, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir had denied Pakistani mediation between his country and Iran.
The Foreign Office and the Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of the military, did not respond to queries about Mr Marwan’s claim.
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2017
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The blast has left at least 130 people injured and a state of emergency has been declared in the city, Punjab government spokesman Salman Sufi said.
Bahawalpur’s Victoria Hospital said it was treating 40 of the injured, all of whom have suffered 70% burns.
Pakistani paramedics bring a burns victim injured after an oil tanker caught fire.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan’s military, said a total of 51 people with serious burns and in critical condition have been transported by army helicopters to the city of Multan.
It added that the road had been reopened and that traffic had begun to flow again.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif “expressed deep grief over the heavy loss of life.”
“The Prime Minister has directed provincial government to provide full medical assistance to the injured with burns,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s office said. “The Prime Minister has expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for the departed souls.”
Chief Minister of Punjab Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has said an inquiry would be held into the incident.
Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, tweeted that the blaze was “a national tragedy of epic proportions.”
The politician and former cricketer said he had asked local leadership to assess what assistance could be provided to the injured and victims’ families.
The US Embassy in Islamabad tweeted its condolences. “We are so saddened to hear of the terrible oil tanker accident in #Bahawalpur. Our deep condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims,” it said.
CNN’s Sophia Saifi reported from Karachi, Susannah Cullinane wrote from Auckland and Adeel Raja contributed to this report from Islamabad.
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Kashmiris suffering due to Indo-Pak tensions: Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif listen to their national anthems, during a ceremony in Islamabad on Thursday. Mr. Erdogan, who is in Pakistan on a two-day official visit, later discussed the K-issue with Mr. Sharif and advocated bilateral talks to solve the tangle.
Says the escalating situation “can no longer be ignored,” advocates bilateral dialogue to solve the K-tangle
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said the suffering of Kashmiris due to escalating India-Pakistan tensions “can no longer be ignored” as he called on the two countries to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue.
Mr. Erdogan, who arrived here on Wednesday, made the remarks after he held detailed talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
They discussed the K-word
Addressing a joint press conference, the Turkish President told the media that during his one-on-one meeting with Mr. Sharif that they talked about the situation in Kashmir.
“Our brothers and sisters in Kashmir are suffering because of escalating tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) and Kashmir, which can no longer be ignored,” Mr. Erdogan said. He stressed on the importance of dialogue to address the thorny issue.
“The Kashmir issue needs to find a resolution for itself following a dialogue between Pakistan and India,” Mr. Erdogan said.
The Turkish President thanked Pakistan for siding with Ankara’s elected government during a failed coup bid earlier this year. “Soon after the failed coup attempt in Turkey, I received a phone call from President Mamnoon Hussain and we discussed a possible response to the development,” he said.
Mr. Erdogan also lambasted what his government has termed the Fethullah Terror Organisation (Feto) for allegedly supporting the coup and said it was a threat to other countries.
“We are in the process of warning all of our friends and countries [against Feto] across the globe with whom we have solidarity,” he said.
Mr. Erdogan also welcomed Pakistan’s decision to expel dozens of teachers and staff of Turkish schools in Pakistan which were controlled by Fetullah.