LAHORE: The Supreme Court’s decision in Jahangir Tareen case comes as a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of many politicians with suspicious financial matters.

At the same time, Friday’s verdict in the case of Imran Khan may add to the worries of disqualified premier Nawaz Sharif because of the possibility of the PTI chief emerging as even stronger candidate for the slot of prime minister (in the 2018 election) after the apex court has given him a clean chit, say analysts.

Editorial: Jahangir Tareen's disqualification is a significant blow to PTI

“Imran Khan has set a difficult precedent for politicians. If he, despite not being a businessman, can produce 7,000 pieces of evidence in his defence about his past 30-year financial transactions, there are worries for the people doing business and politics simultaneously to keep and produce their financial record if and when sought by courts,” says Dr Rasool Bakhsh Raees of the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

“It will have far-reaching effects. Now any figure whether he or she belongs to the PPP, the ANP or any other party can be brought in the dock,” he says.

His views are corroborated by Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, who heads Islamabad-based political think-tank Pildat, and Dr Rashid Ahmed Khan, former head of Punjab University’s political science department.

“It may open more people to the accountability process as the judiciary will be emboldened after disqualifying two high-profile personalities (Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen) for their dubious financial matters. The only question will be if and when a plaintiff pursues a case steadfastly,” asserts Mr Mehboob, adding that the appearance of Chaudhrys of Gujrat before the National Accountability Bureau should be seen in the same perspective.

Prof Rashid says the judiciary for the sake of its credibility may take big decisions like the ones it took in the cases of Mr Sharif and Mr Tareen.

The analysts also think that the verdict would further damage politicians’ perception among the masses.

“There’s general perception that the politicians are corrupt and engaged in shenanigans. And with this verdict the impression will deepen,” says Mr Mehboob.

Mr Raees says this would lead to the thinking that leaders in all the parties are tainted and they should be held accountable in law courts and not just in the electoral field.

The analysts are unanimous on the proposition that Imran Khan will emerge as a stronger and better candidate for the prime ministerial post or at least the PML-N will fail to get any mileage out of the apex court order against Mr Tareen.

Imran Khan was already strong. Now he’ll appear as even stronger after getting a clean chit of (financial) health from the Supreme Court and will emerge as better claimant to the prime minister’s slot, says Mr Raees.

The Pildat head says parties in Pakistan are knit around personalities and the PTI would have suffered a major setback only if Mr Khan had been disqualified. The wicket of Mr Tareen is valuable, for he’s the brain behind the party’s well organised secretariat, but not the real target, Mr Mehboob argues.

Prof Rashid thinks the N League will get the chance of castigating the judiciary otherwise the verdict promises no political mileage for it. He argues that political disputes should be resolved in the political field instead of courts to save the judiciary from controversy and judges of higher courts should also not hear the cases that should be handled by the lower courts.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2017