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Pakistan's Prime Minister Resigns After Court Disqualifies Him From Office


Pakistan's prime minister is out of a job. That country's Supreme Court has ordered Nawaz Sharif to leave his office following accusations of corruption. Last year, the so-called Panama Papers dump revealed that Sharif's children own expensive properties in London, and that led to an investigation into his family. Today the Supreme Court also ordered a separate trial to look at the finances of Sharif and his adult children, one of whom was being groomed as his successor. For more, we are joined now by NPR's Diaa Hadid reporting from Islamabad. Diaa, corruption is a broad word. What exactly has Sharif done to provoke the Supreme Court to make what is really a very extraordinary move?

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: The court just simply believes that Sharif and his family couldn't directly and clearly answer how they came into so much money. It wasn't just these - sorry. It wasn't just these expensive apartments in London that were mentioned in the Panama Papers that seemed to be owned through offshore companies that were directed back to his children. But it was about other businesses as well.

It was this dense tangle of businesses and money and consistently, whenever the judges had asked questions to Sharif's lawyers in the court, the lawyers would answer on procedural grounds that the court had no right to ask this question, that it had gone out of its mandate. And finally, after five days of hearings, the judges came back and said, we don't think you're honest. And that's a prerogative that the court has in Pakistan.

MARTIN: They do. So the court - even though Nawaz Sharif hasn't been charged with a crime - right? But the court can just say, we don't believe you're fit for office?

HADID: Exactly, exactly. It's a controversial power that the court has. But it's certainly one that they've used in the past. The last prime minister was also dismissed for contempt of court. But this case goes a lot further than that because it's seen as upturning this political dynasty that is so strong in Pakistan. The Sharifs are one of the richest families. It's - Sharif has, you know - used to run the federal government. He had a lot of power. He held several ministries, not just being the prime minister.

And so this is why people in this country really look at this decision. And whether they're for it or against it, they're somewhat stumped by the immense power the Supreme Court has really exercised in this case.

MARTIN: What's it like to be in Islamabad right now?

HADID: It's pretty exciting. There was a cordon - the Supreme Court was cordoned off. There was just hundreds of police and security forces everywhere trying to keep people out. There's dozens of security - sorry - satellite trucks just broadcasting live from the Supreme Court. And now as we watch Pakistan TV, we can see protests popping up all over the country in support of Nawaz and against Nawaz. There were men who were dancing in the streets. And we're expecting...

MARTIN: Political opposition, clearly (laughter).

HADID: The politically opposition, clearly. (Laughter) That's right. And we're expecting to see other demonstrations in support of Nawaz as the day rolls on.

MARTIN: So what now? I mean, how - who's going to be the next prime minister? How does that person come to office?

HADID: Well...

MARTIN: Is there an election?

HADID: No. So it will be decided by the party itself. And they have accepted the court's decision - you know, with reservations. But they have accepted it. And so now they have to decide who will be next.

And this actually is a problem for Sharif's party because the person who was seen as inheriting Sharif's position was his daughter. But now she also will be going to trial, and she's facing her own corruption charges. And so there is a bit of chaos within the party itself over who will now step forward, who can step forward and take the reins.

MARTIN: It might be a total outsider?

HADID: Unlikely, unlikely.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HADID: There's a few centers of power within this party. It's a big party. It's a storied party. And for a while, the tussle was between the interior minister and the defense minister, who is seen as a Sharif loyalist. But the party is clear that Nawaz Sharif will still be the head of the party, even if he's not the prime minister of Pakistan.

MARTIN: NPR's Diaa Hadid reporting from Islamabad on this breaking news out of Pakistan. The Supreme Court there has ruled that the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, should leave office over corruption allegations.

Diaa, thanks so much.

HADID: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ABAJI'S "ISKANDAR EL KABIR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.
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