It did not turn out to be a decision “that will be remembered for 20 years”, nor did it exonerate the Prime Minister completely. Rather, the verdict of the Supreme Court in the Panama case resembled the safe, uncontroversial compromise most political commentators expected it to be. As is the case with most compromises, neither party got everything it wanted, however both parties still claimed the verdict as a victory and proceeded to celebrate it thoroughly.

On the face of it, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has the better cause to celebrate. The party was unsure of which way the Supreme Court would rule and was braced for a disqualification - the post-verdict smiles on the faces of the Sharif family were smiles of genuine relief. The margin may be slim, but the majority decision holds nonetheless – the Prime Minister will not be removed from office, and the term continues. The Supreme Court has passed the buck to a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), teams which are usually staffed by government officials and have a history of fading away inconclusively. The ultimate judgment, it seems, has been delayed, and with the next general election around the corner, the incumbent government will feel it has survived its biggest test.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s celebrations were a little subdued – especially compared to what they would have been if Nawaz Sharif had been disqualified – but they laid claim to a good reason too. The PML-N was not out of the woods yet; a Supreme Court monitored JIT still awaited them. More importantly the tersely worded judgment had been highly critical of the Prime Minister, and the dissenting judges had suggested disqualification. While it has no other option but to spin the judgment into its favour, it still has plenty of material to spin. The opposition parties can claim a moral victory, and collect enough ammunition to effectively shoot at the government till the general election. As the PML-N’s initial jubilation settles down, and the long media grind begins, it may yet come to understand the how damaging the verdict will be.

Already Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan are demanding that the Prime Minister step down in the period of the pending investigations – a call that Nawaz Sharif himself made of the previous tenure’s Prime Minister when he was under investigation. The opposition parties were already in campaign mode, now they are set to take it up a notch.