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Pak SC to announce verdict in Panama case today; Nawaz Sharif’s fate hangs in balance

Islamabad: The political future of Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be decided on Friday by the Supreme Court when it will announce its much-awaited verdict in the Panamagate case in which he and his family are accused of corruption.

The scandal is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s, when he twice served as prime minister, to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when Panama Papers leak last year revealed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif’s children.

The assets include four expensive flats in London.

Sharif, who has been the prime minister of Pakistan for a record three time, faces the risk of being disqualified if the court finds him guilty of corruption and money laundering.

He leads Pakistan’s most powerful political family and the ruling PML-N party.

The verdict will be announced tomorrow at 11:30 AM (local time), according to a supplementary cause list issued this evening.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that he would resign and quit politics after the Supreme Court judgement on the Panamagate case.

His announcement, which comes a day before the verdict in the high-profile case, stunned his supporters and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.

Khan expressed serious disappointment over the way he was kept away from Sharif by his rivals.

The verdict is keenly awaited as both of Sharif’s first two stints have ended in the third year of his tenure.

A steel tycoon-cum-politician, Sharif had served as the Pakistan’s prime minister for the first time from 1990 to 1993. His second term from 1997 was ended in 1999 by Army chief Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless coup.

In May, the Supreme Court set up a six-member joint investigation team (JIT) to investigate the charges against the 67-year-old Sharif and his family.

The JIT submitted its report to the court on July 10.

It said the lifestyle of Sharif and his children were beyond their known sources of income, and recommended filing of a new corruption case against them.

Sharif dismissed the report as a “bundle of baseless allegations” and refused to quit, despite demands to do so from several quarters, including opposition political parties.

On July 21, the court reserved its verdict after concluding the hearing.

Its decision to issue the verdict tomorrow came as a surprise to many as it earlier announced the cause list for two weeks which had not scheduled the Panamagate case.

In the wake of the verdict tomorrow, Islamabad police have announced special security arrangements and closed the capital’s central “Red Zone” area, which has important buildings including the Supreme Court, for the general public.

The entry to the court tomorrow will be restricted to only those having special passes.

The six-member JIT was set up with a mandate to probe the Sharif family for allegedly failing to provide the trail of money used to buy properties in London in the 1990s.

The top court took up the case in October last year on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Awami Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami and reserved the verdict in February after conducting hearings on a daily basis.

PTI