New Delhi, April 20: Neither a clean chit nor a disqualification: the drawn out Supreme Court (SC) case probing the Sharif family’s alleged corruption in the Panamagate case ended today as the court ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe how the family's money was transferred to Qatar. The prime minister and his party breathed a collective sigh of relief, as the fear of an 'extreme verdict' — the premier's ouster — dissolved and gave way to celebrations.
The final verdict was split 3-2 among the five-judge bench, with two dissenting notes in the judgement by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed. The two judges ruled against PM Nawaz Sharif, saying he should be disqualified, whereas the other three were in favour of forming a JIT.
The premier's daughter, Maryam Nawaz, tweeted a photo of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his family and PML-N leaders celebrating the verdict with smiles and embraces.
Further, the court directed Sharif and his two sons - Hasan and Hussain - to appear before the JIT, which would consist of officers from different agencies. The investigative team has been given two months time to complete the probe into alleged corruption by the Sharif family.
The JIT will present its report before the bench after every two weeks.
The JIT is to include officials NAB, FIA, State Bank of Pakistan, Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, the bench said, and will be led by a director-general level FIA officer.
The case was launched on November 3 and the court held 35 hearings before concluding proceedings on February 23.
The case was based on several identical petitions by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan and others about alleged illegal assets of Sharif's family in London.
The assets surfaced when Panama papers - a collection of leaked documents - showed that they were managed through offshore companies owned by Sharif's offspring.
The petitioners had asked the court to disqualify 67-year-old Sharif under Article 62 and 63 of the constitution because he was involved in corruption.
Earlier, the area around the Supreme Court, located in Islamabad's Red Zone, was put on 'red alert', with around 1,500 police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary personnel deployed for security and maintaining peace.
Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman of Pakistan People Party (PPP), in an interview with a private TV channel had asked Sharif to resign in case the decision went against him.
"We did not resist when the Supreme Court disqualified [then premier] Yousaf Raza Gilani. We chose another prime minister. Nawaz should do the same," said Zardari.
Zardari's handpicked Prime Minister Gilani stepped down in 2012 when the Supreme Court convicted him for disobeying court orders.
PML-N and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leaders had gathered outside the Supreme Court ahead of the announcement and made charged statements on their hopes for the outcome.
The prime minister himself followed the proceedings with his family and senior party officials from his residence.
(with inputs from PTI and DAWN)