Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered further investigations into corruption allegations leveled by the opposition against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, saying there was insufficient evidence to order his removal from office.
“A thorough investigation is required,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said, announcing the highly anticipated decision following a months-long hearing.
Two of five judges on the court bench recommended that Sharif should step down but they were out voted.
Police in riot gear surrounded the court in the capital, Islamabad, as it delivered its verdict and some protesters urged Sharif to step down with shouts of “Go Nawaz, Go Nawaz.”
The court late last year launched an investigation into Sharif’s family's offshore wealth after opposition politicians threatened to launch street protests. Sharif and his children deny any wrongdoing.
The opposition accuses Sharif of failing to explain the source of money in offshore companies owned by his children and of lying to parliament. Sharif and his family have denied wrongdoing.
The case against Sharif stems from documents leaked from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm, which appeared to show that his daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies and used them to buy properties in London.
The “Panama Papers” were published last year by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
“The prime minister’s name was not in the ICIJ Panana Papers, his children’s were, and there’s no connection between the children’s finances and his, because they file separate taxes,” said parliamentarian Danyal Aziz, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).
Last year, Sharif told parliament his family wealth was acquired legally in the decades before he entered politics.
Unseating Sharif could have triggered intense turmoil just when the economy is showing modest growth, and security has improved as the civilian government and the powerful military have appeared to come to uneasy terms.