If the Supreme Court verdict blew a hole into Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s credibility, the (leaked) Joint Investigation Team report unleashed a veritable broadside on it. The government’s ship is definitely sinking, the only question that remains is whether they will be able to float it to the next election, and more importantly, with Nawaz Sharif at the helm.

The Supreme Court raised questions about the authenticity and solidity of the Sharif family’s account of the acquisition of its assets – the JIT concludes that a vast disparity exists. “Significant gap/disparity amongst the known and declared sources of income and the wealth accumulated by the Respondent No. 1, 6, 7 and 8 have been observed”, and as the JIT observes, the government was provided substantive evidence of a reliable money trail.

This alone is a serious charge, but the report goes further. Accusations of forgery, false testimony under oath and attempts to conceal records have also been levelled at the government, a development that saw the opening of a criminal case against Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan Chairman Zafar Hijazi for record tampering. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) celebrated the inclusive judgment of the Supreme Court – it won’t be celebrating this one.

However, this report remains just as inconclusive. Despite quoting the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 – whereby any public office holder unable to justify his assets compared to his means is considered to have committed the crime of corruption – the JIT did not file these charges themselves, neither did it make a direct recommendation to the Supreme Court. The matter of criminally charging the Prime Minister has been kicked one rung down to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). As the supporters of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif noted on social media; at this moment he is the Prime Minister, and not charged with a crime.

That situation can change very rapidly. The opposition will not lose the opportunity to politically lambast the government and build pressure on him to resign. The baying will only get louder, until the government responds. What is that response remains to be seem; stepping down as Prime Minister will seem too much like a defeat, and clinging on to power despite such serious allegations will open him up to a political maelstrom that is already wreaking havoc.

Accept it and step down, reject it and fight a legal battle – the options are very limited for the helmsman.