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Opposition wants Sharif to resign

21 April, 2017 1:40 AM
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PM’s party says it’s ready for probe

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the opposition party led by former cricketer Imran Khan, on Thursday asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign after the Supreme Court ordered the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe into corruption allegations against his family members.

“The Prime Minister should immediately resign at least for the 60 days until JIT completes its work,” Mr. Khan told reporters after the court ruling. “How can he continue as Prime Minister when he is being investigated? What moral grounds does he have to continue in office?”

Asif Zardari, co-chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has raised doubts about the JIT, which will be headed by a senior officer of the Federal Investigation Agency. “How can government officers, who are subservient to the Prime Minister, probe allegations against him and his family?” he asked.

However, Mr. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz welcomed the ruling. The opposition wanted the Supreme Court to disqualify the Prime Minister over allegations that his children had used offshore companies to buy properties in London.

The corruption controversy erupted when the 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, were leaked last year.

The Supreme Court, in a split verdict, rejected calls for disqualification, citing insufficient evidence.

Mr. Sharif's daughter and his presumptive political heir, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, posted a photo on her Twitter account of the family celebrating the court’s decision. “We are ready for all kinds of investigation,” Mr. Sharif's Defence Minister, Khawaja Asif, told reporters outside the court.

Farogh Naseem, a Supreme Court lawyer and sitting Senator, said Mr. Sharif could breathe easy, for now. “It was a close call for the Prime Minister,” he told Reuters. “There is no clean chit for the Prime Minister, but for the time being he has been saved from being disqualified.”

The Supreme Court agreed last year to investigate the Sharif family’s offshore wealth after Imran Khan threatened street protests following the Panama Papers leak.

The court has asked the joint investigation team to find out details of Mr. Sharif’s family business in the Gulf. The ruling further stated that the country’s anti-corruption organisation, the National Accountability Bureau, has failed in performing its duties and that’s why the court wants a joint investigation team to be set up.


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