The Panama Judgement of July 2017 left a road open to use a certain interpretation of the constitution to affect the political atmosphere of Pakistan. The consequences can be seen now more than ever, during Election month, as institutions use the same broad interpretation of Article 62 and 63 to punish politicians because of their political affiliation.

The disqualification of former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi cannot be more of a prime example of this political engineering. The verdict by the Election Tribunal is utterly out of bounds with legal precedent- for a candidate to be disqualified under A62 and 63, he or she needs to first be declared not honest and truthful by an authorised court of law. Instead, the Election Tribunal took matters in its own hands to determine whether the former PM was honest or not- something it does not have the authority to do.

Even if there was authority, this broad interpretation of “sadiq and ameen” used by the Election Tribunal is not in conformity with Supreme Court decisions subsequent to Panama, which greatly limited the use of A62 and 63. The Supreme Court, in the cases of disqualification against Khawaja Asif and Sheikh Rashid, restricted the use of the articles so candidates would not be disqualified for mere errors or technicalities. Despite this, the Tribunal saw fit to disregard these precedents and disqualify Abbasi for an error in the value of the former PM’s house.

In case there was any doubt left that this decision was not out of political bias, the judge in this case has used un-objective language, injecting flowery poetry, self-proclaimed patriotism and a near-retirement reflection about the corruption of the system. This is not the judge’s swansong or his personal retirement party - he has a case to decide justly. Instead, he eliminates any facade of objectivity whatever by declaring that not just the legislature, but all other pillars of the state had become rusty, and using the word “mafia” in capital letters to refer to the government majority.

Such rhetoric, which has unfortunately become common in the judiciary, of personally targeting a party and degrading the legislative branch, has the dangerous consequence of eroding public trust in a democracy. In all likelihood, this verdict is expected to be overturned in an appeal filed by Abbasi by the Lahore High Court, as it should.