The decision given by the Supreme Court in the Panama case has not only triggered a legal debate among the community of jurists but has also provided an opportunity to the political opponents of the government and the parties that filed petitions for the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to convert this already politicised case into political agitation, premised on the observations of the two dissenting judges who held that in their view the Prime Minister was no long ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ in terms of article 62 and 63 of the constitution. The fact, however, is that in such cases the majority decision is taken as the decision of the bench hearing the case. So looking at the judgment from the legal perspective it transpires that the prayers of the petitioners have not been granted as per their expectations. The bench did not agree with the view of the dissenting judges and though it appropriate to form a joint Investigation Team to ferret out the truth by meeting all the legal requirements.

Eminent Pakistani jurists and constitutional experts including Asma Jahangir and Babar Sattar, dilating on the formation of the JIT and the questions raised by the bench for it to investigate, said that the questions had no relevance to the prayers of the petitioner and as such the bench had indulged in judicial overreach. Another renowned legal expert and senior lawyer Abid Hasssan Manto opined, “Even in normal cases the courts give full opportunity to the defendants to prove them innocent despite a damning charge sheet against them, then how can the apex court penalize the chief executive of the country on mere a report of the JIT. It will have to give notice to the defendants to defend themselves before giving any verdict even under Article 184(3).”

While the legal debate continues to rage, the PTI led by Imran Khan has already gone into the agitation mode to pressurise the Prime Minister Nawaz to resign as the party felt that JIT would not be able to do its job impartially under his premiership. Pakistan People Party has also announced to campaign for the resignation of the Prime Minister from its own platform. Opinions differ on whether these parties would be able to achieve their objective, but the majority view is that it will be difficult for these parties to dislodge Nawaz Sharif.

The proponents of this view feel that the opposition parties are divided and harbor mutual animosity particularly PTI and PPP. They do not have the appropriate credentials to sell the mantra of corruption and morality to the people, which are the pivot of their campaign. The top most stalwarts of PPP including its Co-Chairman are perceived to be corrupt by the masses. Two of their former Prime Ministers are still facing corruption charge. This was probably the reason of its rout in Punjab the biggest province of the country during the 2013 elections. The PTI top leadership also has in its ranks the people who have soiled reputations. PTI Chairman Imran Khan built his rigging campaign on the alleged 35 punctures which he believed the caretaker Chief Minister Najam Sethi had orchestrated for the PML-N. But when the Judicial Commission repudiated the claims of systematic rigging as alleged by Imran, he in an interview with a private TV channel admitted that 35 punctures were only a political talk. People ask how could a person like him who kept the entire nation hostage to a false campaign, talk of morality and corruption? Imran Khan’s popularity has plummeted considerably as a result of his brand of politics, as is evident from defeat of the party in almost all the bye-elections, local body polls, ballots in AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan, notwithstanding his vigorous campaign to rub in the notion of PML (N) regime, particularly the Prime Minister being corrupt. It is argued that the discredited, defeated and divided opposition was not capable to mount a potent challenge to Nawaz government.

The commencement of hearing of a petition by the SC in regards to disqualification of Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen and the revelations that would come to light during the proceedings of the case might also have a dampening effect on Imran’s campaign against the government, particularly his concealment of ownership of an off-shore company and the details of the property that he owns abroad and within Pakistan. There is a general view that this case was identical to the writ petitions filed by Imran and others in the Panama case. Nobody for sure can predict the final outcome of both these cases but one thing is sure that they would have a political fall-out one way or the other.

Nonetheless, analyst and opinion leaders also believe that the PML-N government was politically much stronger than the combined opposition as according to various surveys Nawaz Sharif was still the most popular political leader in the country. The PML-N government can rightly boast of surmounting the debilitating challenges like terrorism, bringing semblance of peace in Karachi and Balochistan, initiating energy producing project to overcome the inherited energy crisis and reviving the sagging economy and putting it on the path of sustained economic growth, as also corroborated by the international lending and rating agencies and the international media. Another factor that is considered an effective counter-narrative to the allegations of the opposition is the fact that during the last three and half years no mega corruption scandal has surfaced. The Transparency International in its three consecutive reports has indicated a nosedive in corruption in Pakistan.

Another factor which reinforces the credibility of the PML-N government in regards to tackling corruption and preventing flight of money from the country is the recent signing of OECD multilateral Convention of Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters on 14th September 2016. The Convention is an instrument for international tax cooperation that provides for all forms of administrative assistance in tax matters; exchange of information on request; spontaneous exchange, automatic exchange, tax examinations abroad, simultaneous tax examinations and assistance in tax collection. By signing this convention Pakistan exhibited its commitment to fighting offshore tax evasion and tax avoidance. The other move by the government to obtain information in regards to the money stashed in foreign banks by Pakistani nationals is the agreement reached with the Swiss government on 21st March 2017. These initiatives were set rolling by the PML-N government in 2013 much before the Panama Leaks revelations. The foregoing factors surely minimize the vulnerabilities of the government to political black-mail and pressurising tactics of the opposition.