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Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was on Friday disqualified from office by the Supreme Court, which sent his case to an anti-corruption court for trial in the Panamagate graft scandal. In a unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court ordered that a case be registered against Sharif and ruled that a reference be sent against him and his family to an accountability court. The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau to wrap up the case within six weeks. The 67-year-old prime minister was additionally disqualified from holding his office. The judges ruled that the prime minister had been dishonest to Parliament and the courts and could not be deemed fit for his office. The verdict was announced by the original five-member bench that heard the landmark case from January this year. The bench comprises Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, and Justice Ijazul Ahsan. The verdict was read out by Justice Khan in the crowded courtroom 1 of the Supreme Court here. 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 has been the prime minister of Pakistan for a record three time. He leads Pakistan's most powerful political family and the ruling PML-N party. 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 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 the 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. 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.
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