The Supreme Court decision to take up the Panama case, while being celebrated by PTI members as the second coming of justice, will be only as useful as the investigation preceding the SC verdict on the issue. Any potential evidence being unearthed is a long shot and evidence found may not even be admissible depending on the parameters of the case. There is a lot to be worried about, even after trust has been put in the judicial branch. It increasingly looks like the country’s accountability bodies are not even interested in touching the case with a ten-foot pole at this point, as the Prosecutor General of NAB went to the court hearing on Tuesday and stated that NAB could not start the investigation unless there is some prima facie evidence about the commission of an offence.

We can only assume that NAB officials have not bothered to read the legal piece of paper that gives the body its authorities and powers (National Accountability Ordinance 1999), or they have misunderstood it in its entirety. NAB can only decide to pursue or not pursue the case after it has investigated and established that no prima facie evidence can be found. It is still required to investigate the public official accused – the Prime Minister, senators, members of the national assembly and the civil service – before it makes this judgement.

The fact that the Prosecutor General and everyone else at the accountability body seem to think that investigation does not fall in their job description is a testament to the country’s actual problem; corruption is only rampant because those charged with curbing it are doing nothing. Turning a blind eye to specific cases, looking for out-of-court settlements for others and meting out selective justice to those that do not qualify for the first two are all lapses NAB has been accused of looking over before as well.

NAB’s refusal to investigate can only come through the desire for self-preservation or a darker, more partisan reason. As an independent body that even has the word ‘accountability’ in its name, it is a shame that it is doing nothing in the way of actually seeking to bring about transparency and accountability into the country. What’s more troubling is that it actually stands in the way of achieving these objectives, because the Supreme Court will not be carrying out the investigation itself, but will rely on the evidence uncovered from bodies such as NAB. And NAB is not the only one with this lackadaisical attitude – the FIA was the only accountability body that sent out notices to those named in the Panama papers, after more than a little nudging and prodding by the Public Accounts Committee in September. This means that there must be some sort of pressure from the apex court on bodies such as NAB and FIA to ensure that they do their jobs right, or else this case will fall apart well before any answers to the public’s questions surface.