Panama Papers: Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif Resigns, Brother May Become Next PM

B. K. BangashAP

This Friday the five-man bench formed by the Pakistani Supreme Court to investigate the current Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, decided to disqualify him from holding any public office for life. The decision came after a 15-month long investigation following the 2015 unveiling of the Panama Papers, which included probes into Sharif’s and his family’s wealth, according to the BBC.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court put together a Joint Investigation Team to further investigate the disparity between Mr. Sharif’s earnings and his wealth, and the final conclusion was that he was dishonest, the Hindu reports. The investigation also advised pursuing anti-corruption cases against Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, her husband, Safdar, and several others, including Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

With Sharif stepping down the issue of succession was on the table. During the high-level governmental meeting that followed Nawaz’s resignation, it was decided to give the PM’s post to Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother and the current governmental appointee to the Punjab region. He will keep the office until the general elections, which are scheduled for 2018, India TV reports.

This turn of events is bound to be a defining moment in Nawaz Sharif’s career, who had served as a Prime Minister twice before the current term. He held the position between 1990 and 1993 and between 1997 and 1999. In all instances, and like all the other Pakistani PMs, he never managed to finish a term.

Increased security during final decision of the Pakistani Supreme Court, July, 2017.
[Image B. K. Bangash/AP Images]Featured image credit: B. K. BangashAP

This investigation was controversial from the start, and the unveiling of the final decision was made with thousands of troops in the streets as an extra security measure. The investigation itself has been seen as a step forward for the country’s democracy, given that corruption is a severe issue in Pakistan. It is hoped that cases like this one may help curb the problem as more corrupt officials are prosecuted by the law.

On the other hand, it was observed that the whole process could have simply been another way of political manipulation to force Sharif to step down and weaken his party, the Pakistani Muslim League. Party members have declared that the decision will be remembered as being a disputed one.

Saad Rafique, the former Railway Minister, described this day as a “black day” and remembered the importance Sharif had in establishing deeper connections with China and that nuclear tests were carried out during his administration. According to him, the retiring PM has made great efforts to make Pakistan safe. Among such efforts were the military campaigns against the Taliban in 2014 and in Karachi in 2015.

However, the previous two terms of Mr. Sharif as a Prime-Minister were also marked by constant controversies. In the outcome of the 1993 constitutional crisis, during which President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, with the support of the military, dissolved the National Assembly, Sharif was forced to resign his office.

Later, in 1999, he was once again at odds with the military due to policies that were seen as disastrous in the public eye. During the military coup, Sharif was imprisoned, but his life was spared due to Saudi Arabia’s involvement.

Consternation from Sharif's supporters following the decision of the Supreme Court in Pakistan.
[Image by K.M. Chaudary/AP Images]Featured image credit: K.M. ChaudaryAP

At the time, he was also accused of tax evasion. In the aftermath of these events, Nawaz and his brother had been forced to escape Pakistan, but they returned after a judiciary ruling allowed them to do so in 2007. In 2013, Nawaz would be elected again, although he was forced to form a coalition government.

Now, it was the Panama Papers scandal and their revelations that forced him to resign once more.

These documents were leaked by an anonymous source in 2015, and they disclosed financial arrangements among some of the wealthiest people in the world. They showed how the higher social spheres have a monetary dynamic distinct from the rest of population and how they evade the laws of different countries to keep exchanging money and influence.

Among the findings are the use of tax havens and secret deals. They helped to indict some people for several crimes of fiscal evasion and the traffic of influence that would have never been accused otherwise.

[Featured Image by B. K. Bangash/AP Images]