Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office after a damning corruption probe into his family wealth, cutting short his third stint in power and ordering a criminal investigation of his family. Sharif resigned from his post shortly after the judgement.
In a surprise move, the court also dismissed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, one of Sharif's closest allies who has been credited with steering the economy to its fastest pace of growth in a decade, Reuters reported.
Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, which has a majority in parliament, is expected to name a new prime minister to hold office until elections due next year.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Sharif was not fit to hold office after an investigative panel alleged his family could not account for its vast wealth.
The judges ruled that Nawaz had been dishonest to the parliament and the courts in not disclosing his employment in the Dubai-based Capital FZE company in his 2013 nomination papers, and thus, could not be deemed fit for his office.
"He is no more eligible to be an honest member of the parliament, and he ceases to be holding the office of prime minister," Judge Ejaz Afzal Khan said in court.
"The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shall issue a notification disqualifying Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif from being a member of the Parliament with immediate effect, after which he shall cease to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan,” Justice Khan told the packed courtroom.
"Go, Nawaz, Go," shouted supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's PTI opposition party who had gathered outside the court.
Sharif's supporters echoed the prime minister's previous declarations of a conspiracy against him.
"Those who are happy and dancing will cry tomorrow," said Abid Sher Ali, a junior minister. "They have stabbed democracy in the back."
Sharif, 67, has always denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the investigation into him as biased and inaccurate.
The controversy erupted last year with the publication of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world's rich and powerful.
Three of Sharif's four children -- Maryam, his presumptive political heir, and his sons Hasan and Hussein -- were implicated in the papers.
At the heart of the case is the legitimacy of the funds used by the Sharif family to purchase several high-end London properties via offshore companies.
His party insists the wealth was acquired legally, through Sharif family businesses in Pakistan and the Gulf.