Pakistan’s Supreme Court concluded hearings Friday in a high-profile corruption case that could unseat Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and disqualify him from politics.
The three-judge panel did not say when a verdict would be announced.
In concluding remarks, one judge promised the panel would consider if Sharif should be disqualified from political activity as part of the verdict.
Sharif has denied wrongdoing, a position Sharif family lawyers repeated throughout the week-long proceeding.
“I believe legally and constitutionally we have a solid case,” said Salman Akram Raja, who represented Sharif’s three children.
“It is impossible to say anything but I think we should wait for at least two to three weeks,” the attorney said when asked when to expect a ruling.
But lawyers representing the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, or PTI, which filed the case against the Sharif family, sounded confident the prime minister would be disqualified.
“Our lawyers maintained before the judges the prime minister must be disqualified because he lied in his address to the nation, he lied to the court and he lied while addressing the National Assembly (lower house of the parliament). So, the prime minister has continuously demonstrated dishonesty,” party spokesman Fawad Hussain Chaudhry told reporters outside the heavily guarded Supreme Court building.
Legal experts and political observers say the final ruling is expected to change Pakistan’s political landscape, citing the conclusions of a high-powered investigation the court ordered.
If Sharif is disqualified, his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N party, must elect a new leader from within parliament to replace him and complete the government’s constitutionally set five-year term. The government’s term is due to end in June 2018. Some Sharif aides have hinted he may dissolve parliament and call early elections.
This week’s hearing focused on allegations that the prime minister and his three children had engaged in money laundering and tax evasion, and amassed overseas assets through off-shore companies, while concealing their wealth.
The case stems from leaked financial documents known as the Panama Papers that listed the prime minister’s two sons and a daughter as holders of offshore bank accounts and posh overseas property. The documents also named hundreds of other Pakistani citizens.
Sharif twice served as prime minister in the 1990s and on both occasions his government was accused of massive corruption and mismanagement. The 67-year-old politician was elected a third time in 2013, after he had returned from years of exile in Saudi Arabia.
Shortly after Friday’s proceedings, Sharif went into emergency consultations with senior ruling party leaders, cabinet ministers and legal aides to discuss possible outcomes of the case and their implications.
Pakistani media reported the meeting participants also considered possible candidates to replace Sharif if he’s disqualified. Officials were not immediately available to discuss details of the meeting.
In a related but worrying development for Sharif, personnel with the federal investigation agency Friday arrested the head of the state-run Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan on charges he changed Sharif family business records in an attempt to cover up wrongdoing.