Islamabad, Apr 20: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday narrowly survived being disqualified after a 3-2 split decision by a Supreme Court bench which ordered to set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) within a week to probe the allegations of money laundering against his family in the Panama Papers leak.
The court also ordered Sharif and his two sons - Hasan and Hussain - to appear before the JIT, which would consist of officials from the Federal Investigation Agency, the National Accountability Bureau, the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the Military Intelligence (MI)
The JIT will present its report before the bench after every two weeks.
The five-judge bench comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan issued the landmark judgment 57 days after concluding the hearing.
The case, concerning allegations of money laundering by Sharif in 1990s when he twice served as Prime Minister to purchase assets in London, was launched on November 3, 2016, and the court held 35 hearings before concluding the proceedings on February 23 this year.
The assets surfaced when Panama Papers last year showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif's children.
The case in the Supreme Court was based on several identical petitions by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and others about alleged illegal assets of the Prime Minister Sharif's family in London.
The final verdict of the Supreme Court was split 3-2 among the five-judge bench, with two dissenting notes in the judgement by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed, who ruled against PM Nawaz Sharif, saying he should be disqualified, whereas the other three were in favour of forming a JIT.
The premier's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, tweeted a photo of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his family and PML-N leaders celebrating the verdict with smiles and embraces.
Sharif's supporters hailed the decisions as a victory of justice. "We have been vindicated as Prime Minister had last year asked to set up a probe commission to investigate Panama leaks scandal," said Khawaja Asif, Defence Minister and close ally of Prime Minister Sharif.
However, the opposition launched full scale attack on the government and PM Sharif. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, urged PM Sharif after SC’s verdict to resign for the duration of investigation of JIT into how Sharif family's money was transferred to Qatar. "I demand Nawaz Sharif resign, until the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) completes its probe," Khan said. "If you're cleared within 60 days, you can return."
Former President, Asif Ali Zardari and co-chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party said that, "Nawaz Sharif should hand in his resignation," he said while addressing a press conference. "I condemn the [court's] decision.”
"Mian sahib (Sharif) you have failed. You cannot run the government. Give someone else a chance to run the government," he said. "A decision which the Supreme Court could not make, how will the Grade-19 officers under the PM decide the case?" he asked.
Earlier, the area around the Supreme Court, located in Islamabad's Red Zone, was put on 'red alert', with around 1,500 police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary personnel deployed for security and maintaining peace.