Islamabad: Embattled Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today got a temporary breather from the Supreme Court which said there was "insufficient evidence" to remove him from office but ordered setting up of a joint team to investigate the graft allegations against his family.
The high-profile graft case is about alleged money laundering by Sharif in 1990s when he twice served as the Prime Minister to purchase assets in London. The assets surfaced when Panama papers last year showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif's children.
A five-judge Supreme Court bench issued a landmark 540- page split judgement ordering setting up of a Joint Investigation Team comprising officials from different agencies including those from powerful spy agencies the Inter- Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence.
The other agencies in the JIT include the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.
The bench comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan also ordered 67-year-old Sharif and his two sons - Hasan and Hussain - to appear before the JIT.
There is "insufficient evidence to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif," said the verdict.
"A thorough investigation is required," Justice Khosa said, reading out from the highly anticipated ruling.
The JIT would be set up within a week. It will present its report before the bench after every two weeks and will complete its investigation in 60 days.
Justice Ejaz, Justice Azmat and Justice Ahsan wrote the majority judgment, whereas Justice Gulzar and Justice Khosa in their dissenting note branded Sharif "dishonest" and wanted to remove the Prime Minister as sought by the petitioners.
Upon receipt of the JIT report, "issues relating to the disqualification of the PM may be taken up," says the verdict.
The case filed by various petitioners — Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq and Sheikh Rashid Ahmed — sought disqualification of Prime Minister Sharif over his alleged misstatement in his address to the nation on April 5, 2016 and his speech before the National Assembly on May 16, 2016.