ISLAMABAD: Fingers are crossed and speculation is rife after the Supreme Court on Tuesday revealed that it would hand down an anxiously awaited verdict in the Panama Papers case tomorrow (Thursday).
The judgement will be announced by a five-member larger bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, in the Courtroom No. 1 at 2pm, though the hearing was mainly held in the relatively smaller Courtroom No. 2.
The publication of the supplementary cause list brought to an end the gossip and theorising that had dominated discussion across the country for the past several weeks.
Editorial: Panama Papers: the larger picture
Observers feel that the verdict may run into hundreds of pages, with additional notes by a number of judges and, possibly, one or two dissenting opinions.
But no one is certain whether it will be a unanimous judgement, with most practitioners saying it’s very difficult to guess what dimension of the case the bench will consider.
However, legal experts are of the view that certain adverse observations and directions may be in store for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for their inaction over the Panama Papers leaks.
One heartening aspect is the resolve, expressed by every party involved in the Panamagate hearing, to accept and respect the decision of the court, no matter who it favours.
The bench had reserved its ruling on Feb 23, following marathon hearings into the Panama Papers scandal, with the observation that their judgement would remain relevant and valid for at least 20 years.
Essentially, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League head Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had petitioned the Supreme Court to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for making alleged mis-statements in his speech in the National Assembly on May 16 and in his address to the nation on April 5 last year, regarding investments made by his children in offshore companies that led to the purchase of four upscale flats in London.
Soon after the SC announcement, Mr Khan convened an emergency meeting of party leaders at his Islamabad residence on Wednesday to discuss the possible outcomes. All central leaders have been asked to ensure their presence in the meeting.
“Finally, the anxiety has come to an end. The entire nation, including all political parties, has gone through a testing time over the past two months and has been awaiting this day,” senior PTI leader Ishaq Khakwani told Dawn.
“This is a defining moment for Pakistan,” Mr Khakwani said. Whatever the judgement says, it will definitely open up new avenues, whether it is in favour of his party or not.
Meanwhile, State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurengzeb told reporters that the Supreme Court decision would be in accordance with the law and Constitution, adding that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government believed in the dignity and honour of constitutional institutions.
She said the impending decision would lay to rest all rumour-mongering and speculation, adding that those levelling false accusations would get nothing.
She recalled that the prime minister offered himself up for accountability, even though the Panama Papers did not mention his name. He wrote to the Supreme Court to form a judicial commission and, when the proceedings finally began, he presented the account details of three generations, including his late father, Mian Mohammad Sharif.
Sheikh Rashid said in a television programme on Tuesday that he would accept whatever decision came, adding that the thrust of his arguments before the court revolved around articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, which lists the disqualification criteria for members of parliament.
Meanwhile, special security measures have been taken to ensure proper decorum and the smooth functioning of the Supreme Court on April 20.
In view of the limited seating capacity in Courtroom No. 1, entry will be regulated through special security passes, to be issued by the Supreme Court. Only petitioners and respondents whose cases are fixed in the court will be allowed to enter the premises, though the advocates and journalists who regularly come to court will be exempt from obtaining security passes.
Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2017