Pakistan's top court rules prime minister can stay in power

Security has dramatically improved in the last two years, overall confidence in the economy is growing, and the military, which has ruled the country for more than half its history, appears to have reached an accommodation with Sharif's civilian government.

Though owning overseas property is legal in Pakistan, protesters have called into question how Sharif's family acquired the funds to purchase the property.

Pakistan's stock market jumped after the decision, with the Karachi Stock Exchange's benchmark KSE100 gaining nearly 2 percent.

The affair comes ahead of next year's general election at which Imran Khan, the chair of the opposition Pakistan Movement of Justice party (PTI) is to challenge Sharif.

Among the global elite implicated were three of Sharif's four children - his daughter and presumptive political heir Maryam, and his sons Hasan and Hussein.

"We welcome this decision", Defense Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif told reporters after coming out of the courtroom.

Pakistan's top court is expected to deliver its verdict on Thursday in the high-profile Panama Papers scandal involving Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family.

It instead ordered a further investigation into money transfers. "What moral grounds does he have to continue in office?"

The court in Islamabad launched a probe previous year into Sharif's family's offshore wealth after his children were linked to accounts in the so-called Panama Papers leaks in 2015.

The opposition accuses Sharif of failing to explain the source of offshore money and of lying to parliament.

Conducting off-shore business is not illegal in Pakistan but Mr Sharif's accusers believe the companies were used to avoid taxes and / or launder wealth gained through corruption. In the dissenting notes, the judges termed Sharif "dishonest" and said he should be disqualified, but they were outnumbered. "That is very damaging to the prime minister", Rasheed Razvi said. Because two senior judges said you [PM Nawaz Sharif] should be disqualified?

The prime minister's team will hope that the complex nature of the investigation could see any recommendation it reaches kicked into the long grass.

Reports said the joint investigation team will consist of members of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Naeem ul Haque, a spokesman for Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said he expected a verdict against Sharif, but he made clear the opposition would not launch a new street movement if they were disappointed. With the odor of alleged shoddy financial practices in the air, Sharif's party becomes a flawless target for a hodgepodge of electoral opponents - from secular activists to religious groups - who have sought to portray Sharif and the dynastic political elite as corrupt and insular.

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