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

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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Polio Vaccination Team Members Killed in Pakistan

Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world where polio is still endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria

Relatives mourn a female anti-polio drive campaign worker who was shot to death by gunmen, at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, Jan. 18, 2018.
Relatives mourn a female anti-polio drive campaign worker who was shot to death by gunmen, at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, Jan. 18, 2018. VOA

Two vaccination workers were killed and two were seriously wounded, officials said

Militants ambushed a polio vaccination team in a remote tribal region in Pakistan, killing two of the medical workers and seriously wounding another two, officials said Sunday.

The gunmen also attacked tribal police and the paramilitary Frontier Corps when they responded to the attack late Saturday, killing one paramilitary and wounding another.

ALSO READ: Detection of a rare strain of Polio in Pakistan’s Balochistan alarms authorities

Polio workers have come under attack on several occasions since it was revealed that the CIA used a polio vaccination campaign as a ruse to get information on Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. commandos in Pakistan in 2011.Those revelations fed into claims by Islamic extremists that the vaccinations are part of a Western plot against Muslims.

A boy receives polio vaccine drops by anti-polio vaccination workers along a street in Quetta, Pakistan, Jan. 2, 2017.
A boy receives polio vaccine drops by anti-polio vaccination workers along a street in Quetta, Pakistan, Jan. 2, 2017. VOA

ALSO READ: World Polio Day: Anti-Polio drive in Balochistan kicks off Today

An official in Pakistan’s restive Mohmand Agency, Younus Khan, said two workers from the seven-member polio vaccination team went missing after the attack but later returned unharmed. He says security forces are still searching for the attackers.

Jamaatul Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed the attack.

Khan said the bodies of the polio workers were handed over to relatives and their funeral will take place later in the day.

Provincial Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra condemned the attack, calling the polio workers heroes. VOA