AT long last, the saga of the so-called Swiss letter appears to be coming to a close. Yesterday, Law Minister Farooq Naek and the five-member Supreme Court bench agreed on a draft letter and the letter is to be made public — presumably to prevent the government from backing out of its commitment. Since December 2009, when the NRO judgment was handed down, the government has played politics with the letter while the court has appeared inordinately interested in a single letter. Befitting the murky ways of Pakistan, it’s not quite clear what caused the apparent change of heart on the government’s side in deciding finally to write the letter and why the court was willing to give the law minister so much leeway while the government appeared to continue with its games. Indeed, even as late as Tuesday, the government appeared ready to challenge the court once again. Then, suddenly, on Wednesday a quick agreement was reached.
Perhaps though, it is best not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Whatever the reasons, the end of the Swiss letter saga is a welcome one. Countless hours of the court have been wasted, a prime minister has been dispensed with, the government has held innumerable meetings to discuss the minutiae of the letter, endless debates have been held at the very highest levels of the coalition on the merits of writing or not writing the letter — it all became a little too much, even by the peculiar standards of Pakistani politics and the law. Had the end come earlier, the government may — but only may — have given greater attention to more pressing matters of governance. In any case, with a general election on the horizon, the conclusion of the affair may steer the narrative away from the tale of victimhood and allow voters to focus on genuine matters, i.e. the government’s performance in office and whether it deserves to get another five years. As for the court, perhaps it can now broaden its focus to include matters of more importance than a mere letter that may or may not have any meaningful consequences for anyone.