Pak's Supreme Court has ordered a probe into charges against Nawaz Sharif (file)
New Delhi: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today dodged disqualification after a split decision by the Supreme Court which ordered a joint investigation in allegations against him in the "Panama Papers" leaks. Mr Sharif, 67, has denied any wrongdoing, but the Supreme Court agreed to investigate his family's offshore wealth late last year after opposition leader Imran Khan threatened street protests.
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Two of the five Supreme Court judges were reportedly in favour of disqualifying Nawaz Sharif but the rest favoured a probe by a Joint Investigation Team, which has to submit a report in 60 days.
The court has ordered Mr Sharif and his two sons to appear before the team, which will include the Federal Investigation Agency, the National Accountability Bureau, the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the Military Intelligence.
If Mr Sharif had been disqualified, his party would remain in power, but the move would have caused intense turmoil at a time when Pakistan is in the midst of problematic relations with India and as its civilian government and powerful military appear to have come to uneasy terms. The general election must be held by next year.
Among the global elite implicated were three of Mr Sharif's four children -- his daughter and presumptive political heir Maryam, and his two sons.
At the heart of the matter is the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies.
Mr Sharif is an industrialist serving his third term as Prime Minister after the first two were interrupted by interventions from the country's powerful military. The ruling PML-N party insists that the wealth under review was acquired legally through family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.
But lawyers for Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan argue the paper trail for the funds is non-existent, and say the onus is on Mr Sharif to prove his relatives did not engage in money laundering.
In 2014, Mr Khan led a months-long protest that paralysed the government quarter in the capital, Islamabad, after rejecting Mr Sharif's decisive election win a year earlier.
Though Mr Sharif enjoyed a good rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, relations between India and Pakistan have plunged to their worst in decades on account of a series of deadly attacks by Pakistani terrorists on Indian army bases. India has also blamed Pakistan for inciting civilian unrest in Kashmir which is seeing near daily and often violent demonstrations against security forces.