ISLAMABAD, Pakistan â Pakistanâs highest court ordered an investigation on Thursday into offshore wealth held by the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but it stopped short of removing him from office over allegations of corruption and money laundering.
The Supreme Courtâs ruling on the accusations, which stemmed from the Panama Papers that were leaked last year, had been highly anticipated, and it was a bitter disappointment to opposition parties, which had counted on the court to remove Mr. Sharif. Pakistanâs most prominent opposition politician, Imran Khan, had said before the ruling that it would be a âdefining moment in the countryâs history.â
Last April, the Panama Papers revealed that three of Mr. Sharifâs children controlled shell companies through which they owned expensive residential properties in London. The revelations set off political turmoil, as opposition parties accused Mr. Sharif of financial wrongdoing and money laundering, which he and his family denied.
In November, the Supreme Court began hearing a series of petitions against Mr. Sharif based on the accusations.
On Thursday, in a courtroom overflowing with government ministers, opposition politicians and lawyers, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said a team consisting of civilian and military intelligence investigators would investigate Mr. Sharifâs finances and report its findings within 60 days. The five-member panel led by Mr. Khosa voted 3-2 that there was insufficient evidence to remove Mr. Sharif from office.
Mr. Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, left the courtroom in the capital, Islamabad, soon after the ruling was announced, and he later demanded that Mr. Sharif step down while the investigation proceeded. âWhat moral authority does Nawaz Sharif have to stay prime minister?â he said at a news conference at his residence.
Last fall, Mr. Khan had threatened to shut down Islamabad with street protests demanding the prime ministerâs resignation, but he called off the demonstrations after the Supreme Court said it would address the issue.
Members of Mr. Sharifâs governing party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, were jubilant on Thursday, with supporters handing out candy at the doorsteps of the courthouse.
There was no immediate statement from Mr. Sharif, but his daughter and presumed political heir, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, posted pictures on Twitter of her smiling father embracing and celebrating with relatives and party leaders.