The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday adjourned the hearing of Panama Papers case till first week of January, 2017. A new bench will hear the case from the beginning as Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali is due to retire this month. The bench agreed that the case will be reheard under the incoming Chief Justice Saqib Nisar who will have the power to reconstitute it with a larger membership, if he would feel it necessary. Court felt that in short period of time, it would not be possible to go through thousands of pages presented as evidence. Now new CJ will hear the case once again from the beginning and decide whether to continue the proceedings in SC or form a judicial commission.
Both contesting sides, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf were satisfied with the proceedings of SC. While talking to media after every hearing both parties seemed convinced that judges were impressed by their arguments. On the other side, apex court seemed dissatisfied by the way contesting parties developed their case. In the last heading judges were of the view that many important questions were still needed to be answered because both sides had provided mostly sketchy evidences.
Earlier court had suggested formation of an enquiry commission to look into the matter. The court had asked the counsel for PM and the PTI chief to come up with their stance after seeking instructions on forming the inquiry commission. Representing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Advocate Salman Aslam Butt said the premier will have no issue if a commission is formed. But PTI’s counsel Naeem Bokhari announced the party decision to boycott a commission, if it is formed, to probe the Panamagate scam. PTI chief Imran Khan has expressed his concerns for not giving nod to the suggestion. He questioned that how commission would yield results when all state institutions, meant to probe like NAB, FIA, FBI, were working under the premier. While disclosing his doubts he said that even if the result of commission holds Prime Minister guilty he would not be bound to resign. He emphasized that best way forward to keep issue of Panamagate alive is proceedings of Supreme Court.
PTI may also be thinking that developments of an enquiry commission would not attract same media attention the way SC proceedings are getting on every hearing. Media not only is covering court proceedings regularly, but TV channels are holding talk shows and newspapers are nicely keeping the issue alive. In the process ruling party is being discussed for all the wrong reasons and it would be in the best interest of PTI if media keeps exposing government for months to come. PTI is playing its cards sensibly; it believes the longer SC proceedings to continue the more dangerous it could be for reputation of Sharif family. On the other side, it is also alarming that due to dismal and biased performance of institutions, established for the purpose of accountability, contesting political party is against formation of an enquiry commission.
PTI believes SC proceedings would keep Panamagate case alive, but an enquiry commission won’t.