Announced by the five-member Supreme Court, the verdict on Friday caps more than a year of high political drama, breathless court proceedings and a piercing investigation into the finances of the Sharif family.
The charges against Mr. Sharif and three of his children — two sons and a daughter — stemmed from disclosures last year in the Panama Papers leak. Those documents revealed that the children owned expensive residential property in London through offshore companies.
The justices, drawing on a constitutional article that allows the courts to disqualify a member of Parliament who is found to be dishonest, said that they were acting because Mr. Sharif had tried to conceal his assets. And they ordered the opening of a criminal investigation into the Sharif family.
Watching the courtroom drama was the country’s powerful military, which has traditionally decided the fate of civilian governments. There had been hushed speculation that the court, in coming to its decision, had the tacit, if not overt, backing of powerful generals.
Now, Imran Khan, the opposition politician who has been spearheading the campaign against Mr. Sharif since he took power in 2013, stands to gain the most politically from the prime minister’s removal. Mr. Khan has doggedly and almost obsessively led the charge against Mr. Sharif and rallied much of the public against him through a mix of street agitation and court petitions.
The Supreme Court had asked the members of the Sharif family to provide a paper trail of the money they used to buy their London apartments. Investigators found that they were “living beyond their means.”
Despite repeated court exhortations, Mr. Sharif’s family and its lawyers failed to provide satisfactory documentation, the justices said. Several of the documents they produced were declared fake or insufficient.
A representative of the governing party said that although Mr. Sharif was stepping down, the party had “strong reservations” about the verdict and was contemplating “all legal and constitutional means” to challenge it.
Mr. Sharif has called the inquiry into his family’s finances a conspiracy and has asserted that in his three terms as prime minister he had not been tarred by a major corruption scandal.
The ruling, while expected, leaves undecided the long-term fate of the man who has been a dominating force in Pakistani politics for the better part of three decades.
“I did not expect Nawaz Sharif to go scot-free,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a prominent political analyst who is based in Lahore.
“If he has a long-term vision, he will sit back and guide his political party,” Mr. Rizvi added. “He and his supporters will portray the court verdict as victimization and a grave conspiracy involving international powers.”
Mr. Sharif’s removal from office throws his political succession plans into disarray. His daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif, 43, who was being groomed as his political heir, was also implicated in the case.
Political insiders say there are several possible contenders to replace Mr. Sharif as prime minister in the immediate interim. Names being discussed as include Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, the speaker of the national assembly; Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the minister of petroleum; Khurram Dastgir Khan, the commerce minister; and Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the defense minister.
“Whoever they bring will be a weak prime minister, as Nawaz Sharif would want to have someone who is more or less in line with his thinking,” Mr. Rizvi said.
For a long-term replacement, though, speculation is focusing on Mr. Sharif’s brother Shehbaz, 65, who is the chief minister of Punjab Province and a prominent and divisive political figure in his own right. He would first have to take his brother’s Parliament seat in a spot election.
Political analysts say the verdict hands Mr. Khan an undeniable political and moral victory, because it was his pressure on the court to take up the Panama Papers case and then render a quick verdict that forced some of the action.
“Imran Khan will be strengthened, but it remains to be seen how he capitalizes in Punjab Province, which is critical to winning the general elections,” Mr. Rizvi said. Punjab, the most populous and prosperous of the country’s four provinces, has been a stronghold of Mr. Sharif’s for decades.
Mr. Sharif presided over a period of relative economic stability and was able to complete a few large infrastructure projects while reducing the crippling power outages that have long afflicted Pakistan.
But the stubborn scandal over the London real estate holdings sullied the reputation of his family.
Mr. Sharif’s political party nonetheless hopes that his achievements can bring it another electoral success next year even if Mr. Sharif cannot run for office.
“We will make a comeback,” Khawaja Saad Rafique, a party leader, said Friday afternoon at a news conference flanked by other senior figures. He said Mr. Sharif’s “crime was that he stood for civilian supremacy.”
He urged party workers to remain peaceful and said that the party respects the country’s institutions. “There will be no chaos,’’ he said. “We will move forward with wisdom and not emotion.”
During his most recent tenure, Mr. Sharif had an uneven relationship with the military. His overtures of more openness toward India, Pakistan’s longtime foe, backfired as generals spurned his efforts.
More recently, relations with the military took a darker turn after news reports detailed how civilian officials confronted the military over what they called a failure to act against Islamist groups. Mr. Sharif had to fire his information minister and two top aides to placate the army.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, said the Panama Papers ruling was “a real test of our system.”
Some predicted a politically volatile time ahead.
“Until the elections, this will lead to a period of political instability,” Amber Rahim Shamsi, a prominent journalist who hosts a show on Dawn TV, said of the verdict.
“The Sharif political dynasty has somehow managed to survive Pakistan’s rough and bloody politics for over three and a half decades through wheeling and dealing,” Ms. Shamsi said. “It is hard to imagine all the family falling like a pack of cards. Nawaz Sharif has a following and could cash in on political martyrdom to stage a comeback.”Continue reading the main story
General elections were held in Pakistan on 7 March 1977 to elect the 200 parliamentarians to both houses (Senate and National Assembly) of the Parliament of Pakistan. The general elections were the second elections held in the history of the country and the first after the split of the country.
The elections saw a massive victory for the ruling PPP against the PNA, which was an alliance of 9 parties who opposed Bhutto's regime. However, the PNA ended up accusing PPP rigging the elections in her favour. Such allegations were denied by PPP and Bhutto refused to hold any re-election. This sparked off unrest that resulted from mass demonstrations and violent anti-Bhutto protests. Bhutto and the security forces were unable to control the situation, thus, Martial Law became the last hope. The Chief of Army ChiefGen. Zia-ul-Haq called a secret meeting of senior military officials to plan a coup. This plan was successfully executed when the government was overthrown, Parliament was dissolved and Pakistan came under its second period of military rule.
Motives and campaign
The elections were held earlier than originally planned, and were expected to be held in the second half of 1977. However, on 7 January 1977, Bhutto appeared on national television, announcing the elections would be held earlier, and started his political campaign shortly after appearing on national television. On 10 January, Election Commissioner of Pakistan Justice Sajjad Ahmad Jan announced the election schedule and declared 19 and 22 January as the last date for receipt of nominations for the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, respectively.
Bhutto responded aggressively, immediately issuing party tickets to his workers. Unlike the 1970 elections, when Pakistan Peoples Party mainly banked on socialistic slogans, this time Bhutto also relied on political heavyweights, issuing tickets to feudal lords and other influential members. Bhutto himself held public meetings all over the country, and to get further support from the common man, he announced labour reforms on 4 January, and on 5 January, a second set of land reforms. The attendance in the public meetings was amazing in all parts of the country, especially in interior Sindh and Punjab. Bhutto's motives for holding elections earlier was that not to give sufficient time to the opposition to make decisions and arrangements for the forthcoming elections.
The PNA had become a big problem for Pakistan Peoples Party that was targeting Peoples Party on a number of occasions. Throughout the elections, the PNA failed justify their plans for the country but instead targeted the Peoples' Party, concentrating on misdeed, alleged corruptions (although there were no evidences that linked to Bhutto), financial mismanagement, heavy expenditures on administration and disastrouseconomic policies evidenced by inflation.
The Election Commission entered the registry of 30,899,052 voters, commissioned two hundred and fifty five Returning officers (RO) to manage voting system of the polling offices established in entire country. Surprisingly, the elections resulted the supermajority of Pakistan Peoples Party and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, securing 155 seats out of 200
The result was a victory for the Pakistan People's Party, which won 155 of the 200 elected seats, including 19 that were uncontested as the Pakistan National Alliance boycotted the Balochistan elections due to ongoing military operations.
On 7 March 1977, the Election Commission announced the result in which Pakistan Peoples Party won the largest landslide victory in Pakistan's electoral history, winning 155 out of 200 seats in the Parliament. The Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) secured only 36 seats and eight seats on each of province's legislative assemblies, but the PNA had not contested all the seats some parties boycotting elections in parts of the country. The PNA failed to secure any seats from industrial cities such as Lahore. in Karachi secure 80% seat . and Rawalpinidi, where the PNA had arranged the massive demonstration and big public gatherings and processions. These results were in stark contrast to the widespread predictions that although Bhutto would win the election, but not by a wide margin that the results suggested.
Overall, the PPP won 60% of votes, a supermajority in the parliament, voting figures showing the success of the peoples party candidates often surpassed the actual number that turned up for voting. In numerous constituencies in Punjab, where Bhutto faced the strongest opposition, Bhutto's candidates returned with over 95% of the vote. Observers noticed that in a polling offices were Alliance's candidates were strong, the polling was alleged to have been blocked for hour. Observers, both in national and international, quickly pointed out that the results in key constituencies were issued directly from the Prime Minister's office.
When the results were announced, a great ire on Bhutto was raised by Alliance's leader Abdul Vali Khan, accusing Bhutto for systematically rigging the elections. The Alliance boycotted the assemblies sessions, staging massive demonstration in the country. Vali Khan demanded immediate resignation of Bhutto, chief election commissioner, and as well as the government, proposing the idea of holding new elections under the supervision of Supreme Court of Pakistan. Bhutto refused the demands, Vali Khan and the Alliance decided to bring their party workers onto the streets, to break law deliberately, and to confront the police and the Federal Security Force, Bhutto's commissioned security forces. Alliance leaders called upon the people to stage countrywide strikes and organise protest marches. The followers fully responded to the call and a full-fledged political movement started, during this episode, the business community wholeheartedly joined Alliance. The Alliance used mosques and churches to stimulate the masses and tried to create an impression that they were only working for the enforcement of Nizam-i-Mustafa. They criticised the socialistic attitude of Bhutto and alleged that he had lost his faith in Islam. The ulema whipped up emotions for a Jihad to save Islam, which they thought was in danger from an evil regime. The bar associations across the country also began to register their strong protest against the electoral fraud and denounced the post-election policy of repression.
The law and order situation created by rioting by the PNA cost the economy $765 million and exports fell by 35%.
Bhutto used repression to curb the Alliance but soon came to conclusion that it was not possible. Therefore, Bhutto tried to use the option of dialogue by holding talks with the Alliance leaders. The Alliance demanded the 50% representation in the government, release of their party workers and leaders, and demanded new elections before 14 August. On 4 July 1977,[contradictory] then-director general of Military IntelligenceMajor-GeneralKhalid Mahmud Arif revealed the military's plot to overthrow Bhutto, urging Bhutto to "rush the negotiations before its too late". The next day, Bhutto accepted all demands of Alliance and the stage was set for a compromise. Bhutto immediately travelled to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, further putting the negotiations behind and the Alliance termed his tour as "dilatory tactics". On 5 July 1977, Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, supported by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Shariff, imposed Martial Law and sent Bhutto behind the bars. Shortly, General Zia announced: "Had an agreement reached between the opposition and the Government, I would certainly never have done what I did...". Although his statement was dismissed by General Khalid Mahmud Arif in 1979.
- ^Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume I, p673 ISBN 0-19-924958-X
- ^ abcdefghiStory of Pakistan. "General Elections 1977". January 1, 1977. Story of Pakistan, 1977 elections. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
- ^Talbot, Ian (1998). Pakistan, a Modern History. NY: St.Martin's Press. pp. 240–1.