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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, January 22, 2018


Shamefaced Pakistan PM resigns amid corruption charges

Criminal charges be filed against Sharif

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Amid a spiraling corruption probe and following a Supreme Court order to remove him from office, Pakistan’s beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stepped down from his post on Friday.

The five-judge Supreme Court panel ordered Sharif’s removal over allegations of corruption, plunging the country into a political crisis.

The Supreme Court acted on petitions filed by Sharif's political opponents who alleged that he and his family failed to disclose assets revealed from last year's ‘Panama Papers’ leaks. 

The court subsequently ordered that criminal charges be filed against Sharif and four of his relatives.

In a unanimous decision on Friday, the court said Sharif had not been "truthful and honest," and dismissed him from the National Assembly — the lower house of Parliament.

Soon after, Sharif resigned and called it a show of respect for the judiciary, but added that he said the court's decision was unjustified.

Post the landmark ruling, Pakistan, which is plunged into turmoil due to violence by Islamic militants, was thrown into political disarray as questioned related to who will succeed Sharif gripped the country.

The court asked Pakistan's figurehead President Mamnoon Hussain to "ensure continuation of the democratic process." 

Hussain is expected to convene the National Assembly once Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, which enjoys a comfortable majority, nominates a successor to serve as prime minister.

Sharif’s successor is expected to rule until general elections are held in June 2018.

Meanwhile, Sharif's political opponents celebrated his ouster and opposition leader Imran Khan urged Sharif’s critics to gather in Pakistani capital, Islamabad on Sunday to celebrate their legal victory against the "corrupt ruling elite."

Addressing a news conference, Khan described Sharif’s disqualification as a "good omen" for Pakistan and said that he hopes all those who "looted" the nation's wealth would face a similar fate.

However, disappointment at their leader’s ouster, Sharif's party urged supporters to keep calm and avoid confrontations.

Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb told reporters, "This decision is not surprising, but we are disappointed.”

Sharif had served three separate stints as prime minister and the 67-year-old has a history of rocky relations with Pakistan's military, which is the country's most powerful institution. 

In 1993, midway through his five-term term, Sharif was first dismissed by the army picked president.

Then, in 1999, military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf overthrew Sharif in a coup and exiled him to Saudi Arabia.

In recent months, Sharif’s relationship with the military, that has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70-year history, reached a new low after a renewed local newspaper published a front-page article revealed a rift between civilian and military leaders over fighting militancy. 

Meanwhile, on Friday, the court ordered that criminal charges be filed against Sharif, his two sons, his son-in-law and his daughter, Maryam Nawaz. 

The ruling stated that the charges must be brought within six weeks and decided within six months.

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