The Supreme Court dismissed Nawaz Sharif after an investigation into his family could not account for its vast wealth. Sharif and his family were embroiled in a long-running case that gripped the country following the release of the Panama Papers.
Pakistan's top court on Friday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office in a unanimous decision after a damning corruption probe into his family wealth, cutting short his third stint in power.
The Supreme Court dismissed Sharif after an investigative panel alleged his family could not account for its vast wealth. Domestic media reported a criminal investigation would also be launched against the premier and his family.
"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.
TRT World's Nafisa Latic reports.
Sharif resigned from his position shortly after the Supreme Court decision, the prime minister's office announced. His resignation meant the federal cabinet has been dissolved.
The statement issued by the office said Sharif had "stepped down" despite having "serious reservations" about the judicial process.
Pakistan's Supreme Court in its ruling also disqualified Finance Minister Ishaq Dar from office.
Dar, who was Sharif's former accountant, had submitted documents to the Supreme Court about how the Sharif family obtained their wealth that included a portfolio of upscale London properties.
Dar has been considered one of the most influential people in Sharif's cabinet and credited with bringing the economy on to a more sure footing after a balance of payments crisis in 2013.
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.
Among allies mooted to replace Sharif are Defence Minister Asif Khawaja, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Petroleum Minister Shahid Abbasi.
Friday's decision by the five-judge court was not surprising as many legal experts and opposition leaders were expecting punitive measures against Sharif and his family.
It is not the first time the judiciary has ordered the dismissal of the elected prime minister. In 2012, the court convicted the then-premier Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.
Sharif's two previous stints in power were also cut short, including by a military coup in 1999. But he came back from exile to win a resounding victory in the 2013 general elections.
Opposition politicians rejoiced, vowing to bring an end to Sharif's dynasty.
"Today the people of Pakistan got real justice, a new chapter has begun," Jehangir Khan Tareen, a member of the opposition PTI, said outside the court.
Sharif's ouster will be seen as a major victory for PTI leader Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician who led street protests to demand an investigation into Sharif.
Khan pounced on the leaking of the Panama Papers, which revealed Sharif's family had bought posh London apartments through offshore companies.
The Supreme Court ruled in April there was insufficient evidence to remove Sharif from office - by a 2-3 verdict - but it ordered a probe by an investigative panel that included members of the military intelligence agencies.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) this month returned its findings in a 254-page report that said Sharif's family assets do not match their earnings. The panel also accused his children, including daughter Maryam, of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of the London flats.
Sharif denies any wrongdoing
Sharif, 67, has always denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the investigation into him as biased and inaccurate.
Sharif has alleged a conspiracy against him, although he has not named anyone. His allies, however, have privately spoken of elements in the judiciary and the military, with whom Sharif has strained relations, acting against him. The army denies any involvement.
"This is not accountability, it is revenge," Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq said hours before the verdict was announced. "In an effort to dislodge us, the democratic system has been made a target."
Analysts expect Sharif to push for one of his allies to form a government until elections are held next year, when his brother Shahbaz, who is the chief minister in Punjab province, may take over the party leadership.
But the Supreme Court ruling has not only imperilled the political career of Maryan, but endangers the entire dynasty.