Investigative agencies detain head of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Zafar Hijazi, over allegations of forging documents to protect Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in the Panama corruption case against them.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looks out the window of his plane after attending a ceremony to inaugurate the M9 motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad, Pakistan on February 3, 2017
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looks out the window of his plane after attending a ceremony to inaugurate the M9 motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad, Pakistan on February 3, 2017

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday finished hearing arguments on Panama case into the family wealth of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and will begin deliberating whether to disqualify the premier.

The court is expected to make a decision in a week or two, with analysts split on whether it will dismiss Sharif outright or recommend a fresh investigation and corruption trial by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Few expect the judges to drop the case, since the Supreme Court appointed the investigatory panel that alleged the Sharif family's wealth was beyond its means.

It further accused his children, including presumed heir Maryam, of signing forged documents to hide ownership of posh London flats.

The Supreme Court agreed last year to investigate the Sharif family's offshore wealth after the leaking of the "Panama Papers."

Documents leaked from the Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm appeared to show that Sharif's daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy properties in London.

Sharif denies all allegations

Sharif, who became the prime minister of Pakistan for the third time in 2013, has denied wrongdoing and slammed the 254-page report by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) as biased and slanderous. He has also rejected opposition demands to stand down.

The prime minister's lawyers have been arguing that the JIT overstepped its remit, and disputed its findings.

Ejaz Afzal Khan, who heads the three-judge Supreme Court panel hearing Sharif's case, on Friday announced the hearings had been concluded by saying: "Judgement reserved".

However, Khan did not say when the Supreme Court would announce its decision.

Opposition parties believe Sharif is wobbling and expect the Supreme Court to deliver a knockout blow to his premiership by employing a little-used constitutional provision to dismiss a sitting official.

"From our legal perspective it's crystal clear: he can't survive this," said Shafqat Mahmood, a lawmaker and senior official with the opposition PTI party.

Sharif's allies interpret the court's decision not to summon him as indicating that it will order a NAB investigation.

Such an outcome would be seen as something of a victory by the ruling PML-N party because it would probably allow Sharif to finish his term and even contest the next polls in 2018.

Previous investigations

Sharif has faced numerous investigations since he served his first two terms in the 1990s and now has many pending NAB cases. Both those terms were cut short, and he spent a long time in exile after being deposed in a military coup in 1999.

Sharif, son of an industrialist, has denied all the claims against him and his supporters say he has never been convicted of anything despite facing unprecedented scrutiny during three stints in power.

Sharif has talked of a conspiracy against him, but has not named anyone. Privately, however, his allies say elements of the military and the judiciary are bent on toppling him.

Last week, the army spokesman brushed aside suggestions that the military was the hidden hand behind the investigation.

Opposition politicians say Sharif is concocting conspiracy claims to save himself, and argue that if he really wanted to protect democracy he would step down.

Top official detained

Head of the Securities and Exchange Commission Zafar Hijazi was detained on Friday over allegations of forging documents in the corruption case against Sharif.

Hijazi, who is seen as a trusted ally of Sharif was accused by investigators of doctoring the records of a sugar mill owned by the Sharif family to protect them.

He had appeared in court on Friday morning for a bail hearing and was arrested during the proceedings.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies