The Supreme Court decided to not disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office in its supposed landmark judgement in the capital Islamabad on Thursday, ordering further probe into the alleged Panama scandal involving the premier's children.
The ruling party and the opposition both claimed victory following the split decision by the 5-member bench, with each side giving its own interpretation of the 540-page order.
While two judges called for the premier's disqualification from office, three judges said they were in favor of forming a special committee called the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), comprising representatives of top spy agencies -- the Inter Services Intelligence and the Military Intelligence -- to probe the Panama allegations further.
The call for further investigation comes after the apex court carried out an over four-month long hearing into the case.
Sharif and his two sons have been made bound to appear before the JIT, which the court said would complete its probe within 60 days. The special committee has also been made bound to present its report fortnightly before the apex court
In their notes against Sharif, the two dissenting judges -- Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed -- said the prime minister was guilty of misleading them about the money trail, and recommended him to be disqualified.
All five judges, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the money trail provided by Sharif's lawyers and pointed out the failure of the country's top anti-corruption bodies -- the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Investigation Authority -- in probing the scandal.
Meanwhile, Maryam Nawaz, who had been named in the Panama scandal, congratulated her father in a tweet: "Congratulate Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. All praises are for Allah." Despite being mentioned in the scandal, Maryam's name does not appear anywhere in the hundreds of pages long verdict.
Sharif's ruling Pakistan Muslim League party activists came out in droves outside the court and chanted slogans in favor of their leader's "victory".
According to Radio Pakistan, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif in his remarks outside the Supreme Court said: "We are thankful to Almighty Allah who granted us victory in Panama case."
Imran Khan, the country's cricket hero and head of the opposition party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) that was one of the petitioners in the case, has so far not said a word about the verdict.
However, the opposition side's lawyer, Fawad Chaudhry, said the apex court in the verdict had expressed its complete dissatisfaction over the evidence presented by the premier's lawyers in the case.
"Those who are chanting slogans in favor of Nawaz Sharif, have not read the judgment. They do not know that the judgment is actually against Nawaz Sharif who now has to appear before an investigation committee as a prime minister," Chaudhry told reporters.
Sharif, who is serving as premier for the third term, has lately come under immense pressure from the opposition and the media after the Panama Papers were leaked last year, which revealed that his two sons -- Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz -- and daughter Maryam Nawaz owned offshore companies.
The premier maintains his innocence and has rejected all accusations of financial irregularities against him. He has repeatedly said that all transactions made by his family members were fair and in accordance with the country's laws.
In April 2016, Sharif's eldest son, Hussain Nawaz, admitted in an interview with a local Pakistani channel that his family owned the offshore companies and controversial flats in London.
He had insisted the transactions were all legal and refused to make his assets public, claiming that such a move could harm his business interests.
Sharif came to power for a third term following his right-wing Pakistan Muslim League Party's landslide victory in the 2013 elections. His previous two terms as prime minister had ended prematurely under pressure from the Pakistani military.
The documents released by Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in April last year pointed fingers at 140 politicians worldwide, among them 11 current and former national leaders, claiming they worked with Mossack Fonseca to establish shadow companies for global transactions and money laundering.
Their revelation sent shockwaves across the world, resulting in the resignation of Iceland's Premier Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and political pressure on the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who later admitted to having a profitable stake in a fund owned by his father. -