Pakistan‘s Supreme Court has finished hearings regarding the family wealth of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and will begin deliberations on whether to disqualify him for corruption.
Ejaz Afzal Khan, who heads the three-judge Supreme Court panel, on Friday announced the hearings had been concluded by saying: “Judgement reserved.”
The court is expected to make a decision in a week or two.
Few experts expect the Supreme Court’s panel of judges to dismiss the controversial case after ordering an investigation team in April to review evidence.
Most analysts are divided on whether the court will simply disqualify Sharif or recommend a new investigation.
The Supreme Court’s appointed investigatory panel has claimed that the family wealth is way beyond their means. It further accused Sharif’s children, including presumed heir Maryam, of signing forged documents to hide ownership of posh London flats.
Sharif has denied any wrongdoing and slammed the 254-page report by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) as biased and slanderous.
Sharif’s lawyers have been arguing that the JIT overstepped its remit.
According to attorneys involved in the case, the court heard arguments from both sides of the dispute: the government and the opposition led by former cricketer turned politician Imran Khan from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
“The Supreme Court today concluded the hearing of this case and it will set a date for announcing the judgment later,” said Salman Akram Raja, the lawyer for Sharif’s family.
Fawad Chaudhry, one of the lawyers for opposition leader Imran Khan said Sharif faced a serious challenge and “we hope Nawaz Sharif will be disqualified” for concealing his assets.
“From our legal perspective it’s crystal clear: he can’t survive this,” said Shafqat Mahmood, a lawmaker and senior official with the opposition.
Sharif ally arrested
On Friday, the chairman of Pakistan’s financial regulator was arrested on charges of forging documents for the Sharif family.
Head of the Securities and Exchange Commission Zafar Hijazi, who is a close ally of Sharif, was accused by investigators of forging records of a sugar mill owned by the Sharif family. He was arrested in court on Friday.
The arrest comes just over a week after the JIT said documents naming Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, as a trustee for several of the family’s high-end London property were also “falsified.”
Dated 2006, they were typed in Microsoft’s Calibri font, which was not released for commercial use until 2007, the JIT said, citing forensics experts. Sharif, however, has been defiant of the JIT findings.
“This is not accountability. This is exploitation,” Sharif said while addressing supporters in the northern region of Dir on Thursday.
How it started
The controversy surrounding the Sharif family’s wealth came under scrutiny last year after the publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful.
The names of three of Sharif’s four children, daughter Maryam and sons Hasan and Hussein, were in it.
In April, the Supreme Court said they had insufficient evidence to disqualify Sharif from office and ordered the JIT to investigate the case and review evidence.
The investigators, earlier this month, concluded that there was “significant disparity” between the Sharif family’s declared wealth, the known sources of income of Sharif and his family, and their opulent lifestyle, in addition to the Calibri discrepancy. The damning report was submitted to the Supreme Court.
The Sharif family has consistently denied the allegations against them and rejected the JIT report, dismissed by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party as “trash.”
However, the report is fueling intense pressure on Sharif from opposition parties to resign.
Imran Khan says Sharif’s days as prime minster are over and he should go to prison.
“The prime minister’s final destination is Adiala jail. Now I am not demanding his resignation, but imprisonment,” he told reporters on Thursday.