LAHORE - The government had written a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan on April 23, requesting him to constitute a commission to examine information relating to involvement of Pakistani citizens in offshore companies in Panama or in any other country; involvement of former and present holders of public office in writing off their own loans or those of their immediate family members through political influence; and transfer from Pakistan of funds originated from corruption, commissions or kickbacks. Terms of reference for the proposed commission were also attached therewith.

Opposition parties immediately rejected the ToRs framed by the government, insisting that the process should be started with matters relating to the prime minister and his family about the offshore companies. They also came up with alternative recommendations of their own, which were instantly rejected by the government as the PM-specific.

Each side is attributing motives to the other’s ToRs and so far they have not set any meeting to sort out differences. The CJP, who resumed office last Monday after returning from a week-long visit to Turkey, was expected to take up the government’s letter at the earliest possible as the Panama papers revelations have created a situation of uncertainty in the country, which is growing by the day.

But so far there is no news from the apex court. And no one knows whether and when it would take some action on the letter.

The continued silence of the country’s top court on this issue is prolonging the war of words between the political rivals. TV screens are being used by the two sides as battlefield.

The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that some writers are now talking of the possibility of a new military intervention in case the Panama leaks issue is not taken to its logical conclusion. Some columnists have even alleged that the PML-N would like to embrace ‘political martyrdom’ to brighten up its future. Important ruling party leaders admit in their TV interviews the ‘fragility’ of the democratic system, a soft way of hinting at the possibility of a military intervention.

The situation demands that the Supreme Court should not test the patience of the people and go beyond the call of its duty to keep the system on track.

This means that instead of involving itself in constitutional hair-splitting regarding its jurisdiction it should act in a manner the national interest is served best. Through some practical action it should let the nation know which side, the ruling party or the opposition, is serious in action against those involved in corruption.

If the ToRs framed by the government are effective enough to take to task the owners of the offshore companies or those who used their political influence to write off their own loans or those of their immediate family members, the apex court should immediately initiate proceedings on the basis of the prime minister’s letter. But if it thinks the government’s ToRs are too vast (as stated by a former CJP) and the judicial commission will need ages to determine facts and take action against those involved in corrupt practices, it should use its powers to change them.

Constitutional experts are of the view that the Supreme Court cannot change the ToRs on its own and that the authority for the purpose rests only with the government. But the prime minister said at a recent interaction with journalists in Lahore that the apex court is free to change the ToRs and the government would accept its decision.

This categorical announcement by the prime minister, highlighted by the entire media, provides the Supreme Court a justification to review the ToRs framed by the government.

The ToRs proposed by the opposition parties after prolonged consultations can also be looked into and the two versions can be merged, if necessary.

In brief, the Supreme Court should act one way or the other. Its silence is like disappointing the people for whom this pillar of state is the last ray of hope.

The ‘Panamagate’ is perhaps the most important case the CJP has come across to deal with. In case he succeeded in taking the real culprits to task, it would be great national service to be remembered by posterity. A right decision in this case would change the destiny of the country.

The army is doing its job well. It has already eliminated terrorists from various parts of the country, as a result of which peace has returned even to the most restive regions. The defenders of Pakistan should not be forced to involve in any other arena.