At long last, the Supreme Court has decided to take up the controversy that has been shaking up the judiciary. The apex court had quite persistently resisted impassioned calls by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to strike down the verdict in the Al-Azizia reference, and held off equally vociferous demands to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Maryam Nawaz by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) camp. However, the apex court could not have sat on the fence any longer – it eventually had to wade into this conflict.

It has done so with the same caution with which it approached the matter while it was breaking news. Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa observed on Tuesday that the Supreme Court might consider ordering re-trial; or it might re-write of the entire verdict; or simply leave it to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to decide the pending appeal against the conviction. The court was careful to be non-committal, kept its options option and made sure it did not show a bias towards any result. More than once the phrase “letting the dust settle” was used during the hearing, showing us clearly what the Supreme Court intends to do.

Considering the gravity of the situation, this seeming reluctance to take the bull by the horns will annoy many on both sides of political divide. Certainly, letting the issue simmer on the television screens as it currently stands will allow the pitched battle of opposing narratives to continue between the government and opposition, with ample ammunition for both.

However, unlike the previous Supreme Court leadership, this one thankfully does not relish the limelight and controversy. With the legitimacy of the judiciary, the present government and other state institutions on the line, it is imperative that the Supreme Court gets it right.

It would need to be bold and decisive to do that.