Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigned on Friday after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding the post following a probe that revealed illegal family wealth stashed abroad.
A five-judge bench unanimously disqualified Sharif from his post after an investigative panel linked his children to offshore companies, showing that their wealth was far above their legitimate earnings.
One of the judges, Ejaz Afzal Khan, said Sharif was no longer “eligible to be an honest member of Parliament”.
The much-awaited ruling in what came to be known as the Panama Papers case stunned the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which feebly said that all was not over for Sharif and he would remain its leader.
But very soon the veteran politician stepped down as Prime Minister.
The opposition was jubilant and hailed the verdict. Opposition activists celebrated on the streets.
Sharif, who was Prime Minister for a third time, said he was resigning although he had “strong reservations” about the Supreme Court ruling.
The court has recommended that anti-corruption cases should be registered against several individuals including Sharif, his daughter Maryam and her husband Mohammad Safdar, Sharif’s sons Hassan and Hussain Nawaz as well as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
The bench also disqualified Dar and Safdar, an MP, from office.
The bench said the Prime Minister, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, had been dishonest to Parliament as well as the judiciary and could not be deemed fit to hold office.
The Attorney General said the bench disqualified Sharif from becoming the Prime Minister for life.
Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan said all material collected by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which probed the allegations against Sharif and his family, would be sent to an accountability court within six weeks.
The top court urged President Mamnoon Hussain to take charge of Pakistan’s affairs.
This is the third time Sharif has failed to complete his term in office. The last time, he was ousted in 1999 in a coup by then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf.
It was unclear who will succeed Sharif till the next general elections, scheduled for 2018. Sharif had been warning that his ouster would destabilize Pakistan at a time when the economy was rebounding after a decade of chaos.
The son of an industrialist, Sharif saw both of his first two stints in power cut short in the 1990s. Not a single Prime Minister in Pakistan has completed his or her tenure.
The Panama Papers leaks of April 2016 revealed that three of Sharif’s children owned offshore companies and assets not shown on his family’s wealth statement. This was apparently used to channel funds to acquire foreign assets, including in London.