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Pakistan’s Supreme Court to announce a much-awaited judgment that can Unseat Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over Corruption allegations

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Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif, center, arrives to attend a military parade to mark Pakistan's Republic Day in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, March 23, 2017. President Mamnoon Hussain says Pakistan is ready to hold talks with India on all issues, including Kashmir, as he opened an annual military parade. During the parade, attended by several thousand people, Pakistan displayed nuclear-capable weapons, tanks, jets, drones and other weapons systems. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed) VOA

Pakistan’s Supreme Court will announce a much-awaited judgment Thursday that could either politically boost Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, or unseat him over corruption allegations.

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court concluded long-drawn hearings in the case on February 23 and reserved the final judgment.

The corruption charges against the prime minister stem from leaked financial documents known as the Panama Papers. They listed Sharif’s two sons and a daughter, along with hundreds of other Pakistanis, as holders of offshore bank accounts.

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Sharif denied any wrongdoing, but the court agreed to investigate his family’s offshore wealth late last year after opposition leader Imran Khan threatened street protests.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf — or PTI party — along with several other politicians, had separately petitioned the court to disqualify the prime minister.

They argued that since the emergence of the Panama Papers, Sharif has concealed and misstated facts in speeches to parliament and to the nation about property his children own in London through offshore companies.

Khan alleges that Sharif established the assets through tax evasion, money-laundering and corruption during his previous two stints as prime minister of Pakistan in the 1990s.

“It is a defining moment in the history of Pakistan because this verdict will change the way the ruling elite govern in Pakistan,” Khan told a public gathering in Islamabad ahead of Thursday’s court decision. He said that the judicial system in the past “unfortunately” had always sided with the powerful in the country.

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“What should happen first time in our history is that a powerful person in Pakistan should be convicted of corruption and money laundering,” Khan said when asked about the coming court ruling.

Corruption is rampant in Pakistan. The country ranks 116th out of 176 in Transparency International’s annual index of the world’s most corrupt nations.

Government ministers and Sharif’s ruling party aides appeared confident, however, that the verdict will be in favor of the prime minister.

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Federal Information Minster Marriyam Aurengzeb told reporters the court decision will bring an end to “all rumor-mongering and speculation.” She said those leveling “false accusations” against Sharif would get nothing.

Pakistani political circles and media are rife with speculation about possible outcomes after the Supreme Court announced on Tuesday it would hand down the verdict on Thursday.

Leaders of mainstream Pakistani political parties have converged on Islamabad and are holding internal meetings to discuss future plans if the Supreme Court verdict leads to the disqualification of Prime Minister Sharif.

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Supreme Court Signals Out Automobiles Cause Much More Pollution Than Burning Firecrackers

Making it clear that it does not want to generate "unemployment", the court said those who would lose their livelihood can't be compensated in terms of alternate jobs, financial or other support if the firecracker industry was shut down.

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air pollution
Linking the plea for a ban on the manufacture, sale and bursting of firecrackers across the country with Article 19 (1)(g) guaranteeing the right to occupation, trade or business, a bench headed by Justice S.A. Bobde flagged the issue of loss of jobs if there was a clampdown on the firecracker manufacturing industry. Pixabay

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked why firecrackers were being singled out for rising pollution levels when automobiles caused much more pollution. It asked the Centre to apprise it with a comparative study of the two.

Linking the plea for a ban on the manufacture, sale and bursting of firecrackers across the country with Article 19 (1)(g) guaranteeing the right to occupation, trade or business, a bench headed by Justice S.A. Bobde flagged the issue of loss of jobs if there was a clampdown on the firecracker manufacturing industry.

Article 19 (1)(g) of the Constitution guarantees the right “to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business”.

crackers
Observing how there can be a ban on the firecracker industry whose operations were legal and licensed, Justice Bobde said the way out was not cancelling the license but there could be a change in the licensing conditions.
Pixabay

Sitting along with Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, Justice Bobde said the issue had not been examined on the touchstone of Article 19 (1)(g) of the Constitution.

Making it clear that it does not want to generate “unemployment”, the court said those who would lose their livelihood can’t be compensated in terms of alternate jobs, financial or other support if the firecracker industry was shut down.

Observing how there can be a ban on the firecracker industry whose operations were legal and licensed, Justice Bobde said the way out was not cancelling the license but there could be a change in the licensing conditions.

crackers
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked why firecrackers were being singled out for rising pollution levels when automobiles caused much more pollution. Pixabay

The top court’s observations came in the course of hearing a PIL by a toddler — Arjun Gopal — seeking ban on the manufacture, sale and bursting of firecrackers across the country.

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Noting the work being done by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) to produce green firecrackers, the top court had in its last order asked NEERI and PESO to stick the timeline culminating in the bulk production of firecrackers based on the new formulations by May 10, 2019.

The top court had in October 2018 permitted the use of only green firecrackers with reduced emission and decibel levels during all religious festivals. (IANS)