After a brief hiatus – of which Asif Ali Zardari took full advantage – the Panama circus is back in town and all of its denizens are gearing up for another round of confrontation. The new Chief Justice – Mian Saqib Nisar – is finally in office, and he has reformed a slightly tweaked Supreme Court bench under Justice Asif Saeed Khosa to re-hear the arguments afresh. All eyes are on the apex court, and it must be ready for the challenge.

And a challenge it is. Before the previous Chief Justice decided to leave the bench without giving a judgement, the Supreme Court was considered the “saviour” of a nation that was facing a tough political standoff. It was the arbiter in a political dispute of the highest order, and crucially all major parties and government entities submitted themselves before it and publicly expressed their trust in the institution. After Justice Anwar Jamali left the bench the Supreme Court, for the first time in the whole conflict, it came under criticism – it had berated political parties, their legal teams and other government institutions with great aplomb, but when it came to making the final decision it had backed away. Perhaps the institute was still unable to give a significant, government altering judgement, it was widely, and loudly wondered.

The Supreme Court now has the opportunity, and the burden, of correcting this mistake and restoring its stature as an independent, powerful institute outside the vicissitudes of politics. Considering how the Supreme Court has now made this their top issue and have decided to hold hearings on a daily basis, this might be exactly what they intend to do. Justice Khosa has claimed that “we will not leave anything unattended”, and it is hoped that this time around the do not.

When it was announced that the new bench will rehear all arguments there was an outcry over wasted time, but the one-month breather comes as a blessing in disguise. This is a fresh start; all parties have had ample time to restructure their previously haphazard presentations before court and iron out any kinks in their cases. All parties must now be fully prepared, and their arguments the most concise and methodical statements of their respective cases.

However, the Prime Minister and his family have thrown a veritable spanner in the middle of what would otherwise have been a swift resolution of the hearings by changing lawyers just before the proceedings start – a cause for unnecessary delays. It is hoped the Supreme Court recognises the value of promptness in this issue and minimises such forced halts. The uncertainty over Panama has gone on for too long – the nation needs to move on to other, just as exigent, issues too.