Panama Papers case

Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi vs Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif
Emblem of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.svg
CourtSupreme Court of Pakistan
Full case nameImran Ahmed Khan Niazi v. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif
DecidedJuly 28, 2017; 11 months ago (2017-07-28)
Citation(s)PLD 2017 SC 265; PLD 2017 SC 692
Case history
Subsequent action(s)Court rules that electoral disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) continues for life in Sami Ullah Baloch v. Abdul Karim Nousherwani.
Related action(s)Court disqualifies Jahangir Khan Tareen from holding public office in Hanif Abbasi v. Jahangir Khan Tareen.
Mian Nawaz Sharif disqualified from holding office as Prime Minister and Member of National Assembly. National Accountability Bureau ordered to initiate legal proceedings against the Sharif family.
Court membership
Judges sittingJustices
Asif Saeed Khan Khosa
Ejaz Afzal Khan
Gulzar Ahmed
Sh. Azmat Saeed
Case opinions
MajorityEjaz Afzal Khan, joined by a unanimous bench
Laws applied

Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of Pakistan

Section 12(2)(f), 19(f) of the Representation of People Act, 1976

The Panama Papers case (officially titled Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi v. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif), or the Panamagate case, was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of Pakistan that disqualified incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif from holding public office.

Opposition politicians Imran Khan and Sheikh Rasheed petitioned the court in the aftermath of the Panama Papers leak, which uncovered links between the Sharif family and eight offshore companies.[1][2][3] The Court initially ordered the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to inquire into allegations of money laundering, corruption, and contradictory statements by Sharif and his relations in a 3–2 split decision on 20 April 2017, with the dissenting judges ruling that Sharif be disqualified.[4] After the JIT submitted its report and subsequent arguments were heard, the Court disqualified Sharif from holding public office by unanimous verdict.[5]

The case has been described as the most publicized in Pakistan's history, as well as a "defining moment" for the country.[6][7]


Panama Papers leak case

On 3 April 2016 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) made 11.5 million secret documents, later known as the Panama Papers, available to the public.[8] The documents, sourced from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, among other revelations about other public figures in many other countries, included details of eight offshore companies with links to the family of Nawaz Sharif, the then-incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan, and his brother Shehbaz Sharif, the incumbent Chief Minister of Punjab.[9] According to the ICIJ, Sharif's children Maryam Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz "were owners or had the right to authorise transactions for several companies".[10] Mossack Fonseca records tied the children to four offshore companies, Nescoll Limited, Nielson Holdings Limited, Coomber Group Inc., and Hangon Property Holdings Limited.[11] The companies acquired luxury real estate in London from 2006 to 2007. The real estate was collateral for loans of up to $13.8 million, according to the leaked Panama Papers.[12]

Failure to form judicial commission

Nawaz Sharif

Facing growing criticism, Sharif announced the formation of a judicial commission under a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in a nationwide address on 5 April 2016. However, former justices Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Nasir-ul-Mulk, Amir-ul-Mulk Mengal, Sahir Ali, and Tanvir Ahmad Khan all refused to participate and no commission was formed.[13] The federal government remained committed to forming a commission, negotiating its terms of reference with opposition parties Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. In a second address on 22 April 2016, Sharif announced he would resign if proven guilty.[14] The latter effort failed when Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali, cited broad, open-ended terms of reference and the limited scope of the law in this area, and declined to form "a toothless commission, which will serve no useful purpose."[15]

Prime Minister's speech

In a televised address to the National Assembly of Pakistan on 16 May 2016, Sharif suggested forming a joint committee to draft the terms of reference for establishing a judicial commission. He said he was not afraid of accountability, while criticizing opposition figures: "Today, people living in bungalows and commuting in helicopters are accusing me of misconduct. Can they explain before the nation as to how they earned all this money and how much tax they paid?"[16] In his speech, Sharif said he would clear the air about the London flats, but did not return to the subject.[16] He reiterated that the flats had been purchased with money earned from the sale of Jeddah Steel Mills, which had belonged to his father. Later, Sharif omitted any reference to his family's business connections with the Qatari royal family during his 16 May speech, inviting allegations of contradictory statements.[17]

Opposition response

Following Sharif's speech, PTI chairman Imran Khan filed a petition through counsel Naeem Bokhari with the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 29 August 2016, seeking Sharif's disqualification as prime minister and as a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan. Other political leaders including Sheikh Rashid Ahmed of Awami Muslim League, and Siraj-ul-Haq of Jamat-e-Islami, also expressed support for the petition. It targeted Sharif's children, his son-in-law Muhammad Safdar, and his brother-in-law and the incumbent finance minister Ishaq Dar as well. PTI workers staged a sit-in outside Sharif's private residence at Raiwind near Lahore on 30 September 2016. Khan subsequently called on supporters to "lock-down" Islamabad until Nawaz Sharif "resigned or presented himself for accountability".[18]