In a landmark case, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif will be ineligible to hold office for the rest of his life. The Supreme Court voted unanimously to permanently end the political career of Sharif, as well that of a former colleague, ahead of general elections this year. Sharif served as the nation’s prime minister three times.
The Nawaz Sharif Supreme Court case will set the legal precedent in the future for deposed corrupt leaders. In the past, it was unclear how long they should be barred from office. Now, a lifetime ban for “lying and dishonest” has been set.
Sharif’s supporters are outraged, pointing out that his time as prime minister was marked by closer ties with China, economic growth, and a decrease in poverty. Some claim Sharif was ousted due to his ongoing clash with the military. Sharif had long pushed for a better relationship and closer economic ties with India, an idea adamantly rejected by the military.
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The Supreme Court Case
The Supreme Court had struggled to determine how long Sharif should be barred from holding political office. Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution establishes that lawmakers can be disqualified from holding political office, but does not indicate for how long.
Article 62, also stipulates that a lawmaker must be “sadiq & ameen,” honest and righteous. Article 62 was originally used in July to push Sharif out of office.
After much debate the Supreme Court unanimously voted to ban Sharif for life from holding office. Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar remarked the harsh Supreme Court verdict was handed down because the Pakistani people deserve “leaders of good character.”
Nawaz Sharif’s Resignation
Sharif resigned as Prime Minister in July after the Supreme Court found that he had concealed a foreign source of income, which came to light due to the leaked Panama Papers. He failed to disclose a salary he received in 2013 from a company in the United Arab Emirates. Sharif served as a chairman for the UAE-based company owned by his son, which entitled him to a salary. His lawyers claim he never received a salary.
The Panama Papers also revealed the Sharif family utilized offshore companies to acquire pricey real estate in London. Sharif was unable to account for the assets held by his family which were found to be “disproportionate to his known means of income.”
Sharif was then indicted in October by an anti-corruption court.
Sharif has served as prime minister on three separate occasions, for the first time in 1990. He has also been removed from office three times. Hannah Bloch of NPR explains, “Sharif now holds the dubious distinction of being removed, in turn, by his country’s president (in 1993), its military (in 1999) and its highest court. But ousted prime ministers are the norm in Pakistan.”
In 1999, Sharif was convicted on terrorism and hijacking chargers, leading to being removed from office by the military. Instead of facing time in prison, Shariff fled to Saudi Arabia, before eventually returning and running again for the role of prime minister.
Sharif’s party, the Muslim League-Nawaz, still holds political power. They were forced to replace Sharif with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister. This summer, Pakistan will hold general elections. The Muslim League has been expected to win big in the coming elections, however the condemnation of Sharif from the Supreme Court could negatively impact outcomes for his party.
Sharif’s legal troubles won’t end with the Supreme Court decision. Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau’ (NAB) Lahore Division, announced Friday they will be summoning Sharif on April 21.
They plan to question Sharif about his misuses of authority which allegedly occurred during his second tenure as prime minister in 1999. According to NAB, Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, constructed a road for their own personal benefit using government funds. The construction of the road also caused a disruption to the local population.
Shahbaz Sharif’s son-in-law has also been embroiled in the case.
The Sharif Political Dynasty
Nawaz Sharif has led a political dynasty for decades which includes his sons, brother, wife, and daughter. Some anticipate his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, will campaign for prime minister following Sharif’s ban. Shahbaz Sharif currently serves as chief minister of Punjab.
Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, is also active in the family’s political dynasty. She currently serves as a leader in the Muslim League party. Last year, she was chosen as one of BBC’s “100 Women” and the New York Times’ “11 Powerful Women Around the World.”
Nawaz has long been seen as her father’s political heir, however, she was also named in the Panama Papers, bringing her political future into question. She spoke out today on behalf of her father saying, although he has been disqualified “he resides in the hearts of the people.”