Yesterday the Supreme Court began hearings of the Panama case after the submission of an explosive JIT report a week ago. The report in its findings goes against the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his two sons and daughter. It has been rejected by them. Whatever the decision of the case some people may try to move the country towards political turmoil.

The proceedings of the case began at 9:30 in the morning and in the ensuing hours the media had a heyday putting on air views from both sides. Interestingly all the politicians from the government and the opposition were less interested in following the proceedings of the case inside the court room, and more interested in projecting their point of view to the media outside the Supreme Court building. The mudslinging that had continued almost daily since the last hearing on July 10 continued throughout the day. Neither side showed any flexibility or change. They stuck to their guns blazing at each other and chorus of blame game was the same.

Inside the courtroom prior to the start of proceedings the Sharif family and Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar presented their responses and reasons for rejecting the JIT report and what it termed was going beyond its powers. The counsels of opposition leaders presented their arguments. One interesting thing that came to the fore during the arguments was the comment of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who heads the bench, that Shahbaz Sharif appeared in front of the JIT as a witness and his statement can only be used to identify discrepancies. Thus the opposition allegation of Shahbaz being convicted due to his connection in Hudaibia Mills case was wrong. Another interesting observation was that Sharif’s lawyer Khawaja Harris saying that a reference cannot be made on the basis of the JIT report and it was doing what the courts do. “The JIT was not conducting a trial ...choose your words carefully,” observed Justice Azmat. This shows that court is not going to reject the JIT report altogether. The judges asked the opposition counsels to inform them as to what extent the JIT’s findings can be implemented and how they could use their authority. This suggests that the court is not in a hurry to decide the matter. However, the hearing was adjourned for the next day with the observation of Justice Ejaz that they do not wish to waste the time of the court and nation. Emotions are charged on both sides. Sheikh Rashid who is very careful in choosing his words when speaking became so emotional in the court that he addressed the honourable judge as Mr Speaker. Later he apologised and said it may be so since he gets very little time to speak in the National Assembly.

The daily hearing of the case will build more expectations on both sides and the media will have all the time to give their ‘breaking news’. One thing is for sure that the case will not be dismissed, considering the time and effort made by JIT and keeping the whole nation tense about the political uncertainty that may come as a result. But the fact remains that Pakistan does not have the luxury of time. We need to move forward but the path seems to be a difficult one.

Till now Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his cabinet members have talked about a conspiracy being hatched against the government. But they have not named anyone. The electorate is charged and polarised with supporters of PML-N and PTI playing out a furious war over social media, led by Twitter. Many are also confused over some aspects of the JIT report, which calls for some cases closed years ago to be re-opened. The media too is split. Some media groups support the PML-N government while others are rallying behind the opposition.

Prime Minister Sharif has made it clear he is unwilling to step down and wants to fight to the end, whatever the consequences. His party might resist if the case is not decided in his favour. This could see the political contest spill over into the streets with protests and brawls between rival supporters of the PML-N and the PTI (which might be supported by the PPP).

To date, the Pakistan army has not been prominent. Given the army has stepped in during crisis situations in the past, its absence this time could reflect a Pakistan that is coming of age. However, in such a fluid situation, military intervention cannot be ruled out. The Supreme Court could even ask the army to implement its order when it comes.