Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has survived a Supreme Court ruling Thursday over corruption allegations that could have seen him ousted from office.
The five-judge panel, formed by the Pakistan’s Supreme Court in November 2016 to investigate Sharif, delivered its ruling on Thursday after two months of deliberation.
Rather than finding for or against Sharif, by a decision of three to two, the panel ordered a new investigation, which will seek testimony from the prime minister and his sons.
In a statement, the court said it needed more information on the alleged money trail.
Calls for an investigation began when three of Sharif’s children, his sons Hussain and Hasan and his daughter Maryam, were named in the massive Panama Papers document leak in April 2016.
Local media reported they were linked to offshore companies that owned properties in London.
Following mass protests and calls from opposition political groups, a panel was finally formed in November 2016 to investigate links between Sharif and his children’s offshore accounts.
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.
Before the ruling, Maryam Sharif thanked her father’s supporters on her official Twitter account. “Whatever the verdict, am amazed and humbled to see the overwhelming support for Nawaz Sharif,” she tweeted on Thursday.
“For a leader, that’s the most prized possession.”
Leader of the opposition Pakistan Movement for Justice party Imran Khan said in a statement the ruling would “change the dynamics of politics in Pakistan.”
“All the parties had called for Panama probe in National Assembly. To seek justice is the only aspiration behind this struggle,” he said.
Allegations of corruption
The Panama Papers refers to a huge cache of leaked documents, dating back four decades, which are allegedly connected to Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.
They were published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists after an extensive investigation involving a number of media outlets.
Among the documents were the names of world leaders, public officials and celebrities who were allegedly linked to secret shell companies and offshore accounts for assets such as money and property.
While owning overseas property is not a crime in Pakistan, questions were raised about where Sharif’s family got the money to buy the assets.
Opposition leader Khan first called for an investigation into Sharif, whom his party has accused of corruption.
Initially, Sharif and his ruling party rejected calls for a commission into the Panama Papers allegations, but after massive protests across the country the panel was formed. Sharif and his family have denied any wrongdoing.
The hearings officially ended on February 2017. No judgment date was announced at the time.