Updated | Malta is now worse than Pakistan, PN complains

Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif has resigned following a court’s decision to disqualify him from office

The decision marks the third time Sharif has been ousted as leader before completing his term
The decision marks the third time Sharif has been ousted as leader before completing his term

Malta is now in a worse state than Pakistan, the Nationalist opposition has argued following a court’s ruling to disqualify the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, from office.

Sharif has resigned as a result of the ruling, following a probe into his family’s wealth in the wake of the leaked 2016 Panama Papers. The leaks connected Sharif’s children to offshore firms, while he denied any wrongdoing in the case.

In Malta, the Panama Papers exposed two individuals – minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri – of holding trusts in the New Zealand and attached companies in Panama.

“The situation in our country has become so absurd that a country like Pakistan is teaching us a lesson in justice,” the Nationalist Party said in a statement.

It compared the case of Sharif to that in Malta, arguing that both prime ministers faced serious accusation of corruption, with direct involvement in Panama Papers.

In Malta, Muscat and his family are the subject of a magisterial inquiry following allegations raised that his wife, Michelle Muscat, owns a share in Panamanian company, Egrant. The allegations are the subject of the inquiry led by Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who must determine whether this is the case or not.

The opposition has also insisted that there exist “concrete evidence of money laundering” by Muscat’s chief of staff.

A request by outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil requesting a magisterial inquiry into allegations of money laundering by Schembri has been acceded to. The decision is facing seven appeals, filed by Muscat, Schembri and Mizzi, among others. Schembri and Mizzi have argued that the latest inquiry will delve into allegations being already investigated in three separate inquiries currently underway.

“The government is doing all it can to block the investigation,” the opposition has insisted.

In Sharif’s case, the court also ordered a criminal investigation against the premier and his family.

"He is no more eligible to be an honest member of the parliament. He is disqualified as a member of the parliament so he has ceased to be holding the office of Prime Minister," Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan told the packed courtroom in Islamabad.

The decision brings to an unceremonious end Sharif's third term in power, roughly one year before scheduled general elections which would have seen him become the first Pakistani prime minister to complete a full five-year term.

Sharif's two previous stints in power were also cut short, including by a military coup in 1999, but he came back from exile to win a resounding victory in the 2013 general elections.

The court also asked the national anti-corruption bureau to launch a further probe into the allegations against Sharif.

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