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Pakistan’s top court rejects call to disqualify Prime Minister over corruption allegations

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday has ruled there was insufficient evidence to order Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s removal from office over corruption allegations levelled by the opposition, but it ordered further investigations.

A verdict to dismiss Sharif would have left his party in power but would have brought turmoil at a time when Pakistan is experiencing modest growth and improved security, and the civilian government and powerful military have appeared to come to uneasy terms.

Two of five judges on the court bench recommended Sharif should step down, saying he was dishonest “to the nation as well as to the parliament”, but they were out voted.

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Presenting its 549-page judgment amid tight security in the capital Islamabad, the court ordered a joint investigation team be formed to look into allegations around three of Sharif’s four children using offshore companies to buy properties in London.

The team has two months to complete its inquiry, after which a special bench will decide what action to take, the court said in a ruling that opens with the epigraph from Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather”: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime”.

The prime minister and his children deny any wrongdoing.

Pakistan’s stock market jumped after the court’s decision with the benchmark index .KSE closing up 2.39 percent. Sharif is seen as pro-business.

Analysts and opposition politicians said the ruling was a blow to Sharif’s credibility and the inquiry’s findings could yet weaken the prime minister as he heads into a general election, due by May 2018.

But for now, Sharif and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, are celebrating.

Sharif’s daughter and his presumptive political heir, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, posted a photo on Twitter of the family welcoming the court’s decision.

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“We are ready for all kinds of investigation,” Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters outside the court.

The Supreme Court agreed last year to investigate the Sharif family’s offshore wealth after opposition leader Imran Khan threatened protests after the leaking of the “Panama Papers”.

“The prime minister should immediately resign at least for the 60 days until JIT completes its work,” Khan told reporters, referring to the joint investigation team. “What moral grounds does he have to continue in office?”

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India bans condom ads from prime time TV

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NEW DELHI — India has imposed a nationwide ban on television ads for condoms during prime time, citing rules prohibiting ‘vulgar’ content and concerns over children and family members viewing salacious material.

On Monday, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued Advisory No. 40011/01/2014-BC-1, now known as the condom ban, saying that condom commercials could be ‘indecent/inappropriate for viewing by children.’

The information and broadcasting ministry ordered India’s estimated 900 television channels to restrict condom commercials to between 10 pm in the evening and 6 am in the morning, threatening repercussions if the ads fall outside graveyard hours.

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“All TV channels are hereby advised not to telecast the advertisements of condoms which are [a] for particular age group and could be indecent for viewing by children,” the order issued Dec. 11 said citing broadcasting regulations prohibiting “indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes.”

Some critics of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused it of being motivated less by children’s welfare than by prudishness, pointing to past moves like blocking hundreds of pornographic websites and an effort to eliminate sex education from government schools.

The country’s population currently stands around 1.3 billion, and within the next decade India is expected to pass China and become the world’s most populous country.

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