The plot thickens, as the saying goes; or in this case, it gets more audible. Soon after a “well-placed government source” revealed that the Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif weighed in on the government-opposition row over the Panama Papers probe by asking Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resolve the issue at the earliest, an audio clip of the two having a one to one meeting has been leaked on the Internet. Although the short clip is entirely without context – perhaps intentionally so – the general is heard urging the Prime Minister to be punctual about a matter, and Prime Minister is being generously pliant.

For all we know they could have been discussing a wedding ceremony both had to attend, but in the public’s eye and considering the wider context, only one solution seems plausible. That is that after dramatically dismissing several army officers for corruption to put pressure on the government, the men in boots are back for round two. However, round two does have some oddities. The leaked audio suggests that there effort has been made to put pressure on the government above and beyond what was to accrue naturally. “Unnamed sources” spill the beans, the government asks the media to stay away from speculation and the audio clip; this doesn’t seem the modus operandi of the COAS, who has either operated through ISPR’s twitter handle or through reported speeches.

Regardless of the source of the pressure, the pressure itself remains as unconstitutional as the day the general took to the stage to announce “across the board” accountability. The military may be concerned with the vaguely defined ‘general stability’ of Pakistan, but it is absolutely should not be concerned with issues of tax evasion outside its own ranks. These allusions from the COAS are unwarranted, and frankly threatening.

That being said, Nawaz Sharif would do well to heed them; not because the COAS said so, but because they are independently good advice. The PML-N has developed a siege mentality over the Panama investigation and has become unreasonably belligerent. The probe has still not begun because the government has been unable to agree to a set of ToRs. It has been repeated time and again – by this publication and by others – the longer the investigation takes, the more dishonest he seems, and the more unstable his government seems. If he delays any longer any resulting street agitation is on his own hands.