Pakistan’s Supreme Court starts hearings to decide PM’s future

By Drazen Jorgic

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday began hearings that will decide the fate of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is fighting for his job as he contests the damning conclusions of a corruption investigation into his family’s wealth.

The Supreme Court could put Sharif on trial on corruption charges or disqualify him from office, but few expect the judges to dismiss the case after an investigation team submitted a 254-page report into his family wealth last week.

Sharif has denied any wrongdoing.

The investigators alleged his family’s wealth was beyond its means, and accused his children, including his daughter and presumed heir Maryam, of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of posh London flats.

Speaking outside the Supreme Court, Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb said Sharif’s family lawyers had challenged the legality of the investigators’ findings, including allegations falsified evidence was submitted.

“The JIT has gone beyond the mandate it was assigned,” she said, referring to the Joint Investigation Team, made up of finance and law enforcement officials including military intelligence officers.

“The language the JIT has used shows its malafide.”

Sharif’s troubles have shone a spotlight on two issues that have bedeviled Pakistan since its creation in 1947 – corruption and the struggle for power between civilian politicians and the powerful military.

Sharif, 67, the son of an industrialist serving his third term as prime minister, has had a fractious relationship with the army.

He has talked of a conspiracy against him, but has not named anyone. His allies, however, privately claim that elements of the military and the judiciary are bent on toppling him.

The army spokesman brushed aside any suggestions the military’s hidden hand was the driving force behind the corruption investigation.

“The Pakistan army is not directly connected,” he said.

‘IT HURTS’

Sharif has rejected demands from opposition parties to resign, warning…

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