Pakistan After Sharif

The End of the Prime Minister

An opposition supporter cheers the news of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's conviction for corruption in Islamabad, July 2017. Caren Firouz / Reuters

On Friday, Pakistan's top court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding any public office after finding him guilty in a massive corruption case. After the Supreme Court referred the evidence that it had gathered in its investigation to Pakistan’s Accountability Bureau and urged the opening of cases against Sharif and his family, the prime minister stepped down. 

The turmoil was the culmination of a year of political drama set off by the 2016 Panama Papers leaks, which appeared to show that the Sharif family had billions in hidden wealth and assets parked in offshore companies. As soon as the leaks became public knowledge, one opposition party, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) led by former cricket star Imran Khan, demanded that Sharif step down and face a probe into graft charges. As PTI-led protests threatened to lock down Islamabad in October last year, the beleaguered Sharif government mobilized to suppress the rallies and crack down on PTI workers across the country. The confrontation, ultimately, led to the case being taken up by the courts in November last year.

During the proceedings, leaders from Sharif’s party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), declared the process a conspiracy to topple the Sharif government. The precise villain of the tale varied. Sometimes, the military was implicated as an invisible hand behind Sharif’s trial. Many PML-N leaders believe that PTI is backed by military establishments. Some party stalwarts, such as Assemblymen Talal Chaudhry and Danial Aziz, and Sharif’s daughter, Mariam Nawaz, even condemned the Sharif trial an international effort to halt work on the $47 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, which was launched under Sharif administration in 2015. Some local and regional players worry that the CPEC development gives China too much access to the Middle East and Central Asia. Of course, as soon as Sharif stepped down, China reiterated its commitment to complete the CPEC, a part of its One Belt One Road initiativeSharif might be seen by his base as a political martyr ahead

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