NEW YORK - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has said he believes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif faces insurmountable damage to re-election prospects due to the corruption lawsuit against him and his family in the Supreme Court.

In an interview with Bloomberg News published on Friday, a business and financial news service, he said that Nawaz Sharif was guilty in the “court of public opinion" as social media ensured updates from the trial swept across the nation.

“He’s fatally wounded already in the Supreme Court,” he was quoted as stating. “Even if they don’t disqualify him, he’s just going to get progressively weaker after this.”

An expected verdict on Thursday was indefinitely delayed as Asif Khan Khosa, the head of the five-member panel of judges, said they needed more time to consider all aspects of the suit.

The Bloomberg News report said that the uproar has distracted the government as it looks to shepherd China’s $55 billion pledged investment in the country after steering the economy away from the brink of a debt crisis in 2013, and risks halting one of the world’s biggest stock rallies.

"This isn’t the first time Khan has tried to oust the Prime Minister -- he’d made allegations of vote rigging after Sharif won Pakistan’s first democratic transfer of power in a nation ruled by the military for most of its history," the report said.

"Khan has hounded Pakistan’s Premier over leaks last year from a Panama law firm that showed Sharif’s children used offshore companies, allegedly to make property investments in the UK.

If the court finds the assets were illegally created, the Election Commission can declare Sharif ineligible to be a lawmaker and Prime Minister, potentially triggering a power struggle in the party controlled by the Sharif family."

Bloomberg News noted Sharif and his family have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Calls on Thursday to Sharif’s spokesman Musadiq Malik and State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb weren’t answered, the report said.

Sharif had earlier pledged to step down if charges were proved, the reported noted. While corruption allegations have been levelled against Pakistan’s leaders over the decades, convictions are hard to come by, it added.

The KSE-100 stock index has surged 111 per cent since May 2013, the second-best performance among more than 90 indexes tracked by Bloomberg, as Sharif aims to boost growth to 7 per cent by 2018, when he faces re-election, from a targeted 5.7 per cent in the year through June 2017.

But Imran Khan dismissed critics who accused him of bringing the court case to politically weaken Sharif.

“It’s not how I looked at it,” he was quoted as stating.

“I always thought that I went into the Supreme Court because corruption is the biggest issue in Pakistan and it needs to be exposed.”

Pakistan ranks at 116 out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s corruption perception index 2016. Khan said chronic misrule and graft has stunted the country’s development more than any other issue.

The PTI chief also raised the specter of further political turmoil during the interview on Wednesday night, Bloomberg News said, noting that In 2014 thousands of Khan’s supporters flooded the capital for months in protest against alleged election fraud.

“I think his best chance is he will pour in money to the elections and rig the elections,” he said. “That everyone knows because the last election was the most rigged election in our history, he stated.”