Maryam Nawaz's Twitter: The Sharifs all smiles moments after the verdict

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday narrowly managed to save his premiership after a Pakistan Supreme Court bench declared there was "insufficient evidence" to remove him from office but ordered setting up of a Joint Investigation Team to probe the graft allegations against his family.

"The two judges have declared the PM is disqualified".

The controversy erupted with the publication of the so-called Panama Papers previous year, 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca which documented the offshore dealings of numerous world's rich and powerful.

The Supreme Court issued a split ruling calling for a joint investigation team of anti-corruption officials along with the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence to probe the claims and issue a report within 60 days.

Announcing the verdict, Justice Khosa said the ruling had two dissenting notes by himself and Justice Gulzar.

The JIT would be set up within a week.

The JIT will present fortnightly reports before the bench.

The judgement authored by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, which was read out by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

Spokesman of the Prime Minister Musadik Malik expressed satisfaction over pronouncement of the verdict and said the opposition should have no objection to formation of the JIT.

The Supreme Court that took up the case for hearing in October past year, heard arguments from both the sides - opposition and government - and reserved its verdict in February 2017.

Drawing a comparison between an investigation launched against gangster Uzair Baloch and the premier, Imran said, 'If Nawaz is cleared after JIT's investigation, he can return to the seat'. Sharif's political opponents doubted the premier's family made assets outside Pakistan through legal means.

Local media reported they were linked to offshore companies that owned properties in London.

Sharif's party would have remained in power even if the verdict had ordered for the removal of the prime minister.

The prime minister's party, the Pakistan Muslim League, hailed the decision as a victory and his daughter Maryam tweeted: "Praise and glory be to Allah alone".

Sharif and his children had been accused of graft in an ongoing case that had threatened to topple the prime minister and captivated Pakistan after the Panama Papers leak past year linked the family to offshore business.

TV footage showed Sharif embracing his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif who is chief minister of Punjab province.

The worst April in history of the country was April 4, 1979 when former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in Rawalpindi for criminal conspiracy to kill a leading politician.

The appetite for street protests has subsided, in part because four months of demonstrations won Khan little in terms of political change.

Opposition party leader Imran Khan and other oppositions had been asking the courts to probe against the Pakistan Prime Minister.

In a statement, the court said it needed more information about the alleged money trail.

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"With the decision of today, not only democracy but also justice itself have been damaged".

"I think it is evident now to the nation that Nawaz's real face is not sharif", Zardari said.

The PPP senior leader Senator Aitzaz Ahsan also condemned the decision of the Supreme Court and said that it's verdict was flawed.

Earlier, the area around the Supreme Court, located in Islamabad's Red Zone, was put on "red alert", with around 1,500 police, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary personnel deployed for security and maintaining peace.

  • Leroy Wright