Pakistan SC orders further probe against Nawaz Sharif in graft case

By Rob 0

Islamabad: Pakistan’s top court ordered a further investigation into corruption charges against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for now ruling out a potential disqualification and taking pressure off the leader as he attempts to revive an economy battered by terrorism and power outages.

In a three-two split decision by the five-member bench, the Supreme Court ordered a “joint investigation team” to probe allegations against Sharif and his children, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, said in Islamabad, the capital, on Thursday. The investigative unit should submit its report within 60 days, he said.

Making his verdict as hundreds of riot police and paramilitary troops were deployed within a five kilometer (3.1 mile) radius of the court, Khosa concluded the hearing of petitions by the opposition leader and former cricket star, Imran Khan, who brought the case against Sharif and his family. The nation’s benchmark stock index extended gains after the ruling, advancing 3.9%, the largest jump in more than two years.

The decision eases an immediate political crisis caused by opposition demands for Sharif to resign. After the release of the report based on leaked documents of Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonsecca in April, Sharif had pledged to step down if charges were proved.

London properties

Judges took up applications in November following a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed his three children either owned or have signing rights to authorize transactions of four offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands. Those holdings were alleged to have been used to make property purchases in London. Sharif’s political opponents doubted the premier’s family made assets outside Pakistan through legal means.

The court decision will “temporarily cool down opponents but they won’t sit idle,” said Lahore-based political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.

Pakistan, a Muslim-majority nuclear-armed state has been ruled by its powerful military for much of its history after independence in 1947 and its politicians have long faced accusations of corruption which often resulted into their detentions and ousting from power. The country ranks at 116 out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s 2016 corruption perception index 2016.

Sharif has ushered in relative prosperity in Pakistan with the help of an International Monetary Fund’s loan program that averted balance-of-payment crisis in 2013. The economy will continue to expand by 5.2% in 2017, according to a survey by Bloomberg News this month.

Pakistan’s stock market was the best performer in Asia last year and China is investing more than $ 50 billion in loans and funds to revamp the country’s decrepit infrastructure. Bloomberg

First Published: Thu, Apr 20 2017. 02 54 PM IST