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Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif resigns after Supreme Court order to disqualify him

Aamir Qureshi, AFP | Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (C) looks on after inspecting a guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad, in 2013.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday resigned from his post, his office said, hours after the country's Supreme Court disqualified him over corruption claims against his family.

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The Supreme Court said Sharif is not fit to hold office and ordered a criminal investigation into him and his family. The court also disqualified Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

The Prime Minister's office said in a statement that Sharif has "stepped down" despite having "serious reservations" about the judicial process.

Sharif, 67, has always denied any wrongdoing and has dismissed the investigation into him as biased and inaccurate.

Sharif's allies have alleged there was a conspiracy to unseat him.

"This is not accountability, it is revenge," tweeted Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq hours before the verdict was announced. "In an effort to dislodge us, the democratic system has been made a target."

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.

The ruling plunges the country into fresh political turmoil roughly one year before scheduled general elections which would have seen Sharif become the first Pakistani prime minister to complete a full five-year term.

As the verdict was announced in Islamabad opposition supporters erupted in applause, rushing into the street chanting slogans and handing out sweets in celebration.

But in Lahore, capital of Sharif's power base Punjab province, sporadic protests broke out, with his supporters burning tyres in the roads and blocking streets.

The allegations stem from the Panama Papers leak last year, and centre on the lavish lifestyles and luxury London property portfolio of the Sharif dynasty.

"He is disqualified as a member of the parliament so he has ceased to be holding the office of Prime Minister," Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan told the packed courtroom in Islamabad.

The court also asked the national anti-corruption bureau to launch a further probe into the allegations against Sharif and his family, which could see criminal charges brought against the powerful Sharif dynasty.

Sharif's ruling PML-N party currently has no clear successor in place. Sharif's daughter Maryam is his presumptive political heir but does not hold public office, while his brother Shahbaz Sharif, the current chief minister of Punjab province, holds only a provincial seat.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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