Pakistani court orders arrest of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif over graft charges

October 26, 2017 4:07 pm
’s former prime minister speaks during a conference in the capital, Islamabad, September 26, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
A court in Pakistan has issued an arrest warrant for the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who is embroiled in two corruption cases tied to the Panama Papers leak, his lawyer says.
“The accountability court issued bailable warrants for the former prime minister in two cases of alleged corruption today and adjourned (the) hearing until November 3,” one of his defense lawyers, Zafir Khan said Thursday.
The court also dismissed a request from Sharif’s lawyer that he be exempted from court appearances in order to remain in London where his ailing wife Kalsum is undergoing cancer treatment.
The Supreme Court sacked Sharif in late July following an investigation into the allegations against him and his family, making him the 15th premier in Pakistan’s 70-year history to be ousted before completing a full term.
The case against the prime minister stemmed from the Panama Papers leak last year, which spurred media frenzy over the extravagant lifestyles and high-end London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty.
In a lengthy petition demanding that his case be reviewed, Sharif’s legal team laid out 19 points challenging the court’s judgment, saying the ruling suffered “from errors floating on the surface.”
Sharif’s disqualification stems from the Panama Papers leaks in 2016 which appeared to show that Sharif’s daughter Maryam and sons Hasan and Hussein owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London.
The Sharif family has consistently denied the allegations against them and rejected the Joint Investigation Team (JIT)’s report, dismissed by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party as “trash.”
In August, Sharif led legions of supporters from the capital, Islamabad, to his hometown, Lahore, in a days-long procession that brought thousands into the streets in a show of force.
Supporters of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hold placards during a demonstration in Karachi on August 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
During the trip, Sharif repeatedly blasted the court’s actions, saying the decision was an “insult” to Pakistanis. Sharif has kept a grip on the PML-N party, which has a solid majority in parliament, and elected one of his loyalists, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as his replacement within days of the court decision.
Critics say Sharif remains in control of the country through Abbasi and is trying to undermine the judiciary.
Last week, Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada called for Sharif’s younger brother, Punjab provincial chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, to take over the party leadership.
Sharif’s aides say he shows no signs of leaving and he recently called the Supreme Court ruling against him “an insult to the mandate of 200 million voters.”
 Sharif had been ousted as leader before completing his term twice before. In 1993, he was sacked by the then-president over graft allegations, while in 1999 he was ousted in a military coup.
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