As we stand amidst the shifting sands of political fortune in Pakistan, one of two things is probably true: 1) this political drama, its judicial corollaries and the perceived clash of state institutions, will lead to nothing other than perpetuation of the status quo; or 2) we are living through the dawn of a new age of financial and political accountability in Pakistan.

And which of these eventualities is true, will depend, to a large extent, on the tenacity and determination of our state institutions and those entrusted to lead them.

With the Sharif family already indicted, Sharjeel Memon behind bars, Dr. Asim and Ali Raza (of NBP) on bail, and Asif Zardari facing imminent corruption charges (again), it is no surprise that the entire status quo is up in arms about the unrelenting manner in which our Courts have approached the project of accountability. However, since constitutional constraints and political dynamics prohibit direct criticism of the Courts (as evidenced in the Nihal Hashmi case, for example), our political elites have, instead, focused their criticism on institutions such as NAB and the FIA. Suddenly, NAB investigators, FIA officials, and members of the JIT are ‘Enemy No. 1’ against the democratic enterprise. They are part of some undefined international conspiracy to ‘derail democracy’. Their wings need to be clipped, it is claimed. Better yet, these institutions of political victimization must be abolished altogether (as was unsuccessfully attempted, in the case of NAB, by the Sindh government).

In this backdrop, one fact is now becoming increasingly clear: the ongoing process of political accountability, in Punjab as well as Sindh, is not simply about prosecuting a few powerful individuals who have (allegedly) violated our laws, causing billions of Rupees in loss to the national exchequer. Instead, far more importantly, this project is about testing the mettle of our State institutions to persevere in the face of political pressure. It is about the lasting legitimacy of our investigative and judicial organ to abide by the strictest contours of law, over and above all considerations of political expediency. It is about finding out whether our State institutions and their representatives can work independently, according to the mandate of their respective laws, even in the face of opposition from political masters. Or, instead, about concluding – once and for all – that our State institutions and their representatives are nothing more than subservient subjects (personified in the deplorable image of Qamar Zaman standing before the honorable Supreme Court), sworn to forever serve at the feet of modern day philistines?

Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification, in the context of Pakistan’s developing history, is a short-term issue. Proceedings against the likes of Sharjeel Memon and Dr. Asim (or even Asif Zardari and Feryal Talpur, as is expected) are only momentary spikes in our political temperature. But whether our investigative agencies have the tenacity and moral courage to stand up to, and investigate, these tainted idols of power (at par with Allah Ditta), is of lasting importance to our democratic enterprise.

The only political narrative, employed by members of the Sharif family as well as political elites of Sindh, is to play the ‘victim card’. They no longer deny the ownership of expensive properties across the world, residences spread over hundreds of acres, stashes of wealth buried in the backyard, and industrial empires in the cement, sugar and steel sectors of Pakistan. They have no answers to justify the accumulation of such wealth; no convincing rebuttal to the mounting corpus of evidence against them.

This ‘self-proclaimed victim’ image of our political elite has been personified, time and again, throughout the local and international press. In a recent story, published in the New York Times, Mrs. Maryam Nawaz – the very face of political arrogance in Pakistan – has once again claimed that the entire spectrum of cases against the Sharif family are “politically motivated and nothing more than blatant political victimization and pressure tactics”. However, the New York Times story had almost the exact opposite effect than the one intended by Mrs. Maryam Nawaz. The NYT Reporter, while quoting Mrs. Maryam Nawaz, could not help but notice that she sang this victim song “as peacocks and reindeer strutted on the lawns of the 700-acre Sharif family estate in Lahore”, and she “constantly [clicked] on a diamond-and-sapphire prayer counter.”

Sharif family members and the political elite of Sindh need to be reminded that no sane minded individual is buying this twisted narrative anymore. You are not a victim if you live in 700-acre house. You are not a victim if you travel in private jets. You are not a victim if more police officials guard your personal residence than all the public schools in Punjab. You are not a victim if you travel in 20-vehicle motorcade, mostly funded by state resources. You are not a victim if you own properties worth billions, with no money trail to back it. You are not a victim if almost two dozen of our family members still occupy ministerial positions. You are not a victim if you, and your family members, get treatment in the best hospitals in London, while the hapless people of Pakistan stand in the scorching heat outside understaffed government hospitals.

In Sindh, you are not a victim if millions of dollars sit in your Swiss bank account, despite Supreme Court directions to bring them back. You are not a victim if stacks of cash are buried in your backyard. You are not a victim if your house in Surrey is called a palace. You are not a victim if private planes carry you back and forth throughout the country. You are not a victim if you own thousands of acres of land across Sindh. You are not a victim if every provincial capital has a sprawling mansion named after your son. You are not a victim if no hospital, under your governance, could save the victims of Sehwan, while you get personal medical treatment abroad. You are not a victim if innocent children die from malnutrition in Thar, just as you were dancing to the tunes of Sindh Festival few miles away. You are not a victim if Uzair Baloch claims to have paid monthly ‘bhatta’ to you.

In Karachi, you are not a victim if you are involved in the hushing up of Baldia factory massacre. You are not a victim if you can shutdown the entire city through one call. You are not a victim if you illegally dispossess the offices of Eidhi foundation. You are not a victim if your political opponents are frequently found dead in jute sacks. You are not a victim if enemy intelligence agencies fund your ideological leader. You are not a victim if nothing less than the might of Pakistan Rangers can bring peace to the city you govern.

If anything, it is the people of Pakistan who, for too long, have been a victim at the hands of the powerful elite. In this context, if the ongoing drive towards political and financial accountability fails, the eternal tussle between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ will suddenly become the only real battle in Pakistan. And the millions of Allah Dittas of this country will have no other choice but to drag the powerful few through the streets, for vigilante justice, which is fast becoming our nation’s de facto system of justice.