Pakistan is waiting with a baited breath for the Supreme Court’s decision in the high-profile Panamagate case against Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif and his children amid speculation that the adverse ruling may force him to step down. The Supreme Court announced yesterday that its five- member bench will issue the verdict in Panama case later in the day. The case was launched on November 3 and the court held 35 hearings before concluding the proceedings on February 23.
The case was based on several identical petitions by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and others about alleged illegal assets of the family of Sharif in London. The assets surfaced when Panama papers showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children.
The petitioners have asked the court to disqualify 67- year-old Sharif under Article 62 and 63 of the constitution because he was involved in corruption and was no more “honest” and “truthful” as given in the Constitution. It is generally believed the court may not disqualify the Prime Minister but it may pass comments which will bring a lot of moral pressure on Sharif to step down.
“I don’t think he will be disqualified but his moral authority may be impacted,” said Manzoor Wassan, a senior leader of opposition Pakistan People Party (PPP). Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman of PPP, in an interview with a private TV channel asked Sharif to resign in case the decision was against him.
“We did not resist when the Supreme Court disqualified [then premier] Yousaf Raza Gilani. We chose another prime minister. Nawaz should do the same,” said Zardari. Zardari’s handpicked Prime Minister Gilani stepped down in 2012 when the Supreme Court convicted him for disobeying court orders.
Zardari chaired an important meeting of PPP yesterday and also called another meeting today after the decision will be announced to assess the political situation. Sharif’s nemesis Imran Khan and his party announced to launch movement for next election irrespective of the outcome of the decision. Khan held a meeting of party leaders yesterday and asked them to stay in Islamabad to decide further course of action after the court verdict.
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, one of the petitioners, said that the decision will be “historic”. “It will result in a political earthquake in the country,” he said in Rawalpindi.
Meanwhile, in a series of tweets Maryam Nawaz dispelled the impression that the premier was worried about the expected judgement in Panama case.
“People love Nawaz Sharif. It is not about the prime minister speaking. It’s what he’s speaking. His narrative is constructive and about development and progress. Eyes forward, mind focused, heart ready…game on, world ! Wazir-e-Azam Nawaz Sharif,” one of her tweet said.
She also taunted the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf saying: “When all your plans have miserably failed and your precarious future hinges on… your best bet is a court decision”.
Sharif’s supporters are adamant that their leader was “innocent” and will emerge stronger after the verdict. “His name is not in the Panama leaks. He is not committed any wrong. So he will be victorious,” said Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique. Rafique also said that election will be held on time (next year).
The security has been increased in and around the court. Dozens of policemen and personnel of law enforcing agencies are present around the court premises. Regardless of the impact of the decision, it is believed that it will be an important milestone in the fight against corruption.