Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigned Friday after the country’s Supreme Court disqualified him from office due to corruption charges he and his family have been battling.
“Following the verdict, Nawaz Sharif has resigned from his responsibilities as prime minister,” a spokesman for Sharif’s office said in a statement.
The unanimous, five-judge ruling — delivered to a packed courtroom in the nation’s capital — came after an investigation into the family’s finances following the Panama Papers leak in 2015. Documents uncovered during the international media investigation linked Sharif’s children to offshore companies that had not been revealed in financial disclosures.
After the ensuing investigations, Judge Ejaz Afzal Khan said Sharif was no longer “eligible to be an honest member of the parliament.” The court had already recommended anti-corruption cases against Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, her husband Safdar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and others.
The country’s election commission also disqualified Sharif from serving in parliament.
Sharif and his family have denied wrongdoing in the cases. Maryam Nawaz, who is also active in politics, tweeted after the verdict that her father was removed from office, “but only to see him return with greater force.” She asked her party to “stay strong.”
Sharif is not the first prime minister to leave office due to documents that came to light as part of the Panama Papers — leaked internal files from a Panamanian law firm that revealed means by which wealthy and powerful people hid their money.
Iceland’s prime minister was forced to resign after documents appeared to show that he and his wife concealed millions of dollars’ worth of investments in an offshore company.
Sharif is also not the first Pakistani prime minister forced from office — none of the country’s 18 prime ministers have completed their full terms. In 2012, the Supreme Court convicted then-Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to leave office.
Sharif, who was serving as prime minister for the third time, was less than a year from becoming the first to complete a full term, but had been dogged by the corruption allegations. Much of what the Panama Papers revealed was the subject of a federal inquiry in the mid-1990s, but the new allegations fueled ongoing drama in the press and social media.
It was not immediately clear who would succeed him. The court asked President Mamnoon Hussain to “ensure continuation of the democratic process,” and the president was expected to convene the National Assembly once Sharif’s party nominates his successor, who will serve until the next election in March 2018. Sharif’s brother Shehbaz, chief minister of southern Punjab province, is a strong contender.
The verdict was announced amid heightened security, with about 3,000 armed police and members of the Pakistan Rangers paramilitary force deployed near and around the court. When the verdict was announced, opposition supporters erupted in applause, chanted slogans and scattered candy.
“I am so happy today. It is proved today that Nawaz Sharif and his cronies are corrupt,” said college student Kamran Ali, 22. “This decision is the start of a new era in Pakistan. There is no room for corruption in the politics.”
Opposition leaders also celebrated.
“This decision marks the start of a new era in the history of Pakistan, where justice will be held supreme,” said Imran Khan, head of one of the major opposition parties. “Pakistan has won today..”
At a news conference, Khan congratulated the nation on Sharif’s removal and announced that a celebration of the legal battle against the “corrupt ruling elite” would be held in the capital on Sunday.
Sharif’s supporters decried the verdict, and vowed that he would return to office.. “History is a witness that whenever Nawaz Sharif was removed unjustly, the people of Pakistan brought him back to parliament with a greater majority,” said Marriyum Aurangzeb, leader of Sharif’s party.
Special correspondent Sahi reported from Islamabad, and Times staff writer Hennessy-Fiske reported from Beirut.
6:35 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with with staff reporting and additional details and background.
5:05 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with with additional details and background.
This article was originally published at 12:40 a.m.