Was the Avenfield Apartments reference verdict an example of a heroic victory against a corrupt politician, or was it a culmination of yet another instance of selective justice? PTI supporters may be celebrating the taking to task of a man who has been in mainstream Pakistani politics for thirty years, but the implications behind this verdict, and what this precedent could mean for democracy, cannot be ignored.

It is perhaps appropriate, that the case which had been handled so uniquely from the beginning, also ended on a similar note — full of unusual practices. The whole atmosphere around the case verdict was chaotic, to say the least. There were several unexplained delays, journalists were banished from the scene of the courtroom and news was being spread under the radar — as well as from a bathroom window. To top it all, the punishment was read in absentia of the accused; an extremely irregular practice that potentially could be viewed as a violation of fundamental rights.

This “Avenfield exceptionalism” has been following the case since day one. The procedure adopted in this case has often foregone the usual legalities in order to give a fast verdict, an action many say goes against the principle of justice. From continuing court hearings on the weekends, to not giving Nawaz Sharif extensions to meet his ailing wife, to not accommodating the defense’s witnesses, no step of this case has been followed standard procedure adopted in accountability cases.

Accountability and liability are indeed important endeavors for a country to pursue; yet adhering to the letter of the law, not just the spirit, must precede our priorities. Guaranteeing that a verdict convicting a political leader is released just before the elections sets a natural implication for bias and interference in the elections. As the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton before the US elections showed, just having the verdict before, guilty or innocent, would have influenced elections, erasing our goals then of a fair elections outside of any engineering. This view has been acknowledged even by Nawaz Sharif’s rival, Khurshid Shah, who admits that the timing is inappropriate.

Nevertheless, innocent or guilty, the following weeks will tell if the judgment stands the test of time. This is not the first time that Nawaz has been sentenced to jail, and resurged back with a vengeance. The voters will speak and this judgment will have its final page added on the 25th of July.

PTI and PPP perhaps should also take care. This newly discovered zeal of the NAB courts is not to remain contained to PMLN. And is soon to turn towards them as well — that is the whisper on the wind.