Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has resigned.
His announcement came after the Supreme Court disqualified him from the office. The ruling was in connection to the 2015 Panama Leaks that linked Shariff’s family to offshore companies.
The Panama Papers are 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 2,14,488 offshore entities. The documents were leaked to a German journalist called Bastian Obermaye. The documents belonged to Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider.
Many influential and powerful people from across the world including politicians were implicated in these documents. Journalists who investigated them found that many of these transactions were legal. However, some of the shell companies that had been set up were indulging in illegal activities.
Nawaz Sharif was among the politicians who was linked to the documents. This, set off a probe into his personal wealth. His children were among those connected to the offshore companies that became public knowledge.
Sharif is a powerful politician in Pakistan. This is his third term as prime minister of the country. He served from November 1990 to July 1993 and from February 1997 to October 1999. At the time, he was replaced due to a bloodless coup. He is the 18th person to serve as the PM for Pakistan. None of his predecessors have ever completed a full term as prime ministers.
The ruling comes after months of hearings. The verdict was announced by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court. The court said that there was a “significant disparity” between Sharif’s family income and its lifestyle. It also concluded that he had lied about his assets during the corruption probe.
In addition, the court has also asked the national anti-corruption bureau to launch further investigations into the matter.
Sharif has repeatedly maintained his innocence and has denied any wrongdoing. A brief statement from his office stated, “Following the verdict, Nawaz Sharif has resigned from his responsibilities as prime minister.” He was only one year away from completing a full term as prime minister. If he had completed, then he would have been the first person in Pakistan to do so.
In wake of his resignation, security was tightened especially in Islamabad and thousands of troops have been deployed to maintain peace. His party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), holds a comfortable majority in the Parliament and will be nominating the next prime minister. Details on the matter have not yet been released.
Politician and former cricketer Imran Khan was among those who had spearheaded the cause for investigations. He reacted stating, “What we have seen today, if anything could strengthen Pakistan's democracy, then this is it. In a democracy, a leadership must be accountable. Our democratic evolution has moved forward.”
Our assessment is that Sharif will not be the last political leader to be brought down by the potent Panama Leaks. It is possible that this scandal will affect his political party during the general elections, which are scheduled to be held next year.