Panama Papers case: Pak SC orders probe against Nawaz Sharif

Supporters of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chant slogans following Pakistan's Supreme Court’s decision on a case related to Panama Papers leaks in Karachi

Sharif and his children are accused of graft in the ongoing case which has captivated Pakistan and threatened to topple the prime minister after the Panama Papers leak a year ago linked the family to offshore businesses.

The court also ordered Sharif and his two sons - Hasan and Hussain - to appear before the joint investigation team, which would consist of officials from the Federal Investigation Agency, the National Accountability Bureau, the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the Military Intelligence (MI).

The court panel was split, with two judges recommending that Sharif should step down and three backing instead a further investigation.

Questions arose over the business dealings of Sharif's family when three of his children were linked to offshore accounts in the Panama Papers leaks in 2015. 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.

Lawyers opposing Sharif say the onus is on him to prove that his family did not engage in money laundering.

The case was based on several identical petitions by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and others about alleged illegal assets of the Sharif family in London.

If the court finds Sharif's family evaded paying taxes, she said he should resign as he will no longer have "moral authority to remain in power". Sharif and his family have denied wrongdoing.

Speaking to media, after inaugurating a furniture exhibition, Aurangzeb said those rejecting the Joint Investigation team (JIT) ordered by the apex court to probe the corruption allegations against PM and his sons, were committing contempt of court.

The worst April in history of the country was April 4, 1979 when former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in Rawalpindi for criminal conspiracy to kill a leading politician.

It was not immediately clear if there were any implications for Sharif's daughter, Maryam, a prominent leader of his ruling PML-N party. The bench further directed to form JIT within seven days, and present report within 60 days.

About 1,500 police officers were deployed around the court in Islamabad.

Echoing similar sentiments, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's leader Talal Chaudhry said, "We will accept the decision".

However, the Supreme Court bench late Thursday concluded that sufficient material was not available on the record to establish that Maryam was a dependant of the Prime Minister, in a legal sense.

Pakistan is facing a general election next year, and the court case was seen as a pre-emptive strike against Sharif.

Khan also accepted the verdict and said his party has been vindicated that Sharif was involved in corruption.

Following the Pakistan Supreme Court's verdict on Panamagate, Indian defence experts on Friday characterised it as "considerable relief" to Nawaz Sharif, while others said it weakened the position of the Pakistan prime minister.