Pakistan court orders graft probe into PM

"Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was given a reprieve when the Supreme Court ruled there was insufficient evidence to order his removal from office over corruption allegations, but it ordered further investigations", it reported.

The supreme court issued a split ruling calling for a joint investigation team of anti-corruption officials along with the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and military intelligence to probe the claims and issue a report within 60 days.

"We welcome this decision", Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told reporters after coming out of the courtroom.

It erupted with the publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca previous year which documented the offshore dealings of numerous world's rich and powerful.

Those implicated in the allegations include Sharif's daughter Maryam, who is tipped as the prime minister's presumptive political heir, and his two sons.

The commission will have the authority to summon Sharif or anyone else from his family to answer questions on how huge sums ended up overseas in offshore companies, the court statement said.

The case was based on several identical petitions by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and others about alleged illegal assets of the Sharif family in London.

The months-long media frenzy surrounding the case reached a fevered pitch Wednesday when the court indicated it would announce the decision Thursday.

It ordered Sharif and his children Hassan, Hussain and Maryam to submit themselves for investigation to a joint investigation team comprising members of the Federal Investigative Agency, intelligence agencies, the central bank and other bodies.

While the prime minister himself was not named in the documents, he faced questions about where the money came from, whether it was laundered, and why weren't the flats declared.

Pakistani opposition party lawmakers tore up the agenda and shouted in a parliament session on Friday as they demanded that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down during an investigation into his finances.

Later Thursday, hundreds of jubilant Sharif supporters rallied in Islamabad and elsewhere in the country.

The petitioners claimed that the prime minister lied about the investments made by his children in offshore companies, which led to the acquisition of four apartments in London's upscale Park Lane neighbourhood.

Sharif's family has acknowledged owning offshore businesses.

About 500 security personnel have been deployed in advance of the decision, with access to the Pakistan Supreme Court sealed except for those with special passes.

  • Essie Rivera