The arguments have been presented, the press conferences conducted and the decision made – the Panama hearings may be at a close, but the issue however, is far from over. The nation will be watching with bated breath the 2pm deadline by which the Supreme Court will release its decision, after which the real argumentation will begin.
Before we get to the content of the verdict, the whole episode must be placed in context and taken for what it is. Public and political pressure resulting from a news story forced the sitting Prime Minister and his ruling party to appear before the highest court in the land, where it had to defend itself against allegations of financial impropriety and misrepresentation to the people. In a country where state institutions have buckled under power, the fact that the hearings in such a high-profile case were conducted in the public eye, quickly concluded, and the verdict made available without undue delay is commendable in itself. It is small victory for democratic progress, and must be taken as such.
However, as is usually the case with trials and hearings, one party will come be happy with the decision and the other will be a little less so. This is especially true in this case, one cannot fathom a verdict or a compromise that leaves everybody perfectly satisfied. Regardless, both parties in this case must accept the decision – whatever it is. Both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have repeatedly placed their faith in the ability of the Supreme Court to come up with a fair verdict – withdrawing that trust if the verdict is unfavourable towards their party will be both hypocritical and damaging to democracy.
What the actual verdict will be remains anybody’s guess. Mixed statements have been made by each and every political party; some are confident that the court will vindicate their claims, others from the same party caution not to raise hopes overmuch. The government also seems to be in the dark here. In fact, they are preparing for the possibility of a damaging verdict as the Prime Minister shifted the opening of the Bhikki power plant so that it does not clash with the release.
Whatever the verdict, or the implications for the upcoming national elections, we as a nation must remain calm and focused. The Mardan lynching, violence in Kashmir and Khulbushan Jadhav remain important issues to which attention must be paid. We must temper our emotions, and make sure that politics does not overshadow the job of government.