Pakistan’s Supreme Court is holding high-profile hearings to determine the fate of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the basis of a probe that accuses him and his children of money laundering, tax evasion and concealing overseas assets.
After looking into the financial wealth and overseas assets of the family, the Joint Investigation Team, or JIT, appointed by the court concluded last week that Sharif, sons Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, as well as daughter Maryam Nawaz, are living beyond their means.
Investigators also accused the daughter, Sharif’s presumed heir, of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of expensive London apartments.Sharif and his children have denied any wrongdoing.
At Monday’s inaugural hearing inside the tightly guarded Supreme Court building, lawyers for opposition political parties called on the three-judge panel to immediately disqualify and remove the prime minister from office in light of the JIT's conclusions.
Attorneys for the Sharif family questioned the legality of the JIT and its findings, saying the investigators have exceeded their mandated authority.The attorneys were making arguments when the judges adjourned the proceedings until Tuesday.
Legal experts say despite objections and denials by the Sharif family, the Supreme Court could put the prime minister on trial on corruption on the basis of the JIT report, which contains documentary evidence about overseas assets and business Sharif has not revealed to tax authorities in Pakistan.
The 67-year-old politician twice served as prime minister in the 1990's and on both occasions, his government was dismissed on charges of corruption and mismanagement.
Sharif was elected for a third time in the 2013 parliamentary elections after returning from years of exile in Saudi Arabia.He has consistently denied corruption charges.
The court case against the prime minister stems from leaked financial documents known as the Panama Papers that also listed Sharif's sons and daughter, along with hundreds of other Pakistanis, as holders of offshore bank accounts and posh property.
Imran Khan, the opposition leader heading the court battle against Sharif, has been demanding the prime minister's immediate removal since the family’s names appeared in the Panama Papers.Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has also staged anti-government protests.
The powerful military institution notorious for ousting elected governments in Pakistan has denied its role in the legal battle on Sharif’s current tenure.The prime minister has a history of tensions with the military, which removed him in a bloodless coup in 1999 and exiled him.