It seems that those who thought they saw the last of Khawaja Asif after his disqualification by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) have proven to be mistaken. In all likelihood, we will see the former Foreign Minister contesting elections from Sialkot this year, as the Supreme Court has overturned the decision of his disqualification.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial overturned an April decision of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), which had disqualified Khawaja Asif as a member of the parliament under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution for not disclosing his employment in a UAE company as an occupation as well as the monthly salary he was receiving.

This is a departure from the use of the constitution that the Supreme Court has taken in cases of disqualification against Jehangir Tareen and Nawaz Sharif. Since the detailed judgment has yet not been made public, we cannot determine exactly how this will change the previous precedent set. However, this selective interpretation of disqualification and “sadiq and ameen” reveals just how arbitrary this distinction was in the first place.

From court proceedings, it is apparent that the judges chose to follow Article 62 and 63 of the constitution to view the illegality rather than Section 42A of RoPA. This order was meant to restrict the ambit of A62 and A63. However, instead of clarifying the ambit of A62, this order just makes it even more murky and ambivalent. The court seems to have restricted the application of the Articles to a question of technicalities- for Khawaja Asif, his having declared his foreign income in his papers, instead of his job and salary, seem to have been enough for the court to retrieve him from disqualification.

The problem with playing the game on technicalities, however, is that it, more than ever, allows for judicial overreach and discretion. To depart such extraordinary power to the SC, to determine what extent of disclosure accounts for innocence, sets an unpredictable precedent, where parliamentarians will be getting disqualified on the whims of judges.

For now, it is clear that this judgment limits the precedent of the Panama Papers case by limiting the extent of their fellow judges’s judicial law-making, which reads as subtle legal shade. While it is a well-intentioned attempt to clarify the use of A62, it unfortunately makes matters even more complicated, as this precedent may see Jehangir Tareen and other disqualified parliamentarians relieved again.