Panama Leaks is a story of leakage of confidential documents that triggered panic among top tiers of bureaucracy and an uproar from citizens. The leaked documents linked Nawaz Sharif’s children to offshore companies that owned fairly expensive real estate in London. The leaked documents held by Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm, called Nawaz Sharif’s reputation into question by revealing offshore companies that owned assets that were never disclosed in Sharif family’s wealth statements. According to the allegations, these offshore companies served dual purpose: As havens for discretely parking ill-gotten gains and as vehicles for channeling funds for acquisition of foreign assets like London flats. Opposition claimed that Nawaz Sharif is hiding skeletons in his closet and needs to come clean with respect to wealth beyond means. Nawaz Sharif however denied any wrongdoing. He dismissed allegations as baseless and called them a pack of lies. The allegations led to a buildup of pressure from opposition to resign and submit to investigation. Around the same time, a petition was filed in Supreme Court calling for Prime Minister’s disqualification. The Court initially dismissed the petition on grounds that it was mere hearsay but later constituted a five-member bench to start hearings. The court, after examining page after page of evidence for a whole year, stopped shy of disqualifying the Prime Minister. It instead ordered formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) drawn from civilian investigation agencies (NAB, FIA, and SECP), and military intelligence agencies (ISI and MI). The six member team was charged with the responsibility of probing money trail, examining records, and obtaining testimonies from key players. The team was so constructed that any evidence already in possession by any of these agencies (and having nexus to the case) shall automatically become a part of the body of evidence. Some say the set-up was orchestrated to sabotage CPEC. Thus they believe the move was an unholy alliance between countries that do not want to see Pakistan emerge as an economic power on the world stage In the ensuing investigation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif worked hard at battling allegations leveled by opposition that campaigned relentlessly against him. Mired in a scandal of one of the largest magnitude, he used all his might to shield attacks on his political career and managed to narrowly escape the first round. As the case continued, he stood his ground and continued wrangling with authorities, trying to reconcile glaring discrepancies between his assets and sources of income until he was finally disqualified. But the landmark ruling of disqualification that came after months of hearing of Panama corruption case had nothing to do with the corruption that the masses had in mind. The verdict that brought Nawaz Sharif’s term to an unceremonious end had more to do with non-disclosure of accrued salaries before the election commission than assets revealed by Panama Leaks. It was Nawaz Sharif’s failure to disclose un-withdrawn salary of mere 10,000 Dirhams in Capital FZE, a Dubai based company that sent his empire crumbling. Section 42 of Representation of the People Act 1976 states that declaration of assets or liabilities that are false in material respect amounts to corrupt practice. From a technical standpoint, there is no question that lack of disclosure is tantamount to furnishing false declaration, which in turn amounts to corrupt practice. But the Act neither defines ‘material’, nor ‘asset’. And in the absence of a cut and dried clear definition, the verdict comes as a huge leap for many. Calling receivable salary an ‘asset’ and 10,000 Dirhams a ‘material’ amount sets the bar really high for prospective prime ministers. Apologists are calling it a foreign conspiracy, a conspiracy designed by those who do not want to see Pakistan prosper. A conspiracy aimed at sowing seeds of discord in an otherwise peaceful country. They have termed the case a well thought-out, pre-planned conspiracy to oust the elected prime minister and derail democracy. And to this end, they believe, foreign powers even instigated youth to revolt against state and push the sitting prime minister to resign. Some say the set-up was orchestrated to sabotage China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). They believe the set-up was an unholy alliance between countries that do not want to see Pakistan emerge as an economic power on the world stage. Few even bought into the theory that Panama was mere political rivalry: that it was designed by opponents to advance political agendas. Alluding to the fact that JIT concluded its investigation in an unbelievably short time, yet others believe whatever happened, happened on behest of military; a force that has historically ruled the country more than elected governments. But conspiracy or not, the precedent set by court can send anyone packing. Passing the ‘honesty’ test will be an uphill battle for anyone desirous of running for office. The tide can soon turn against those celebrating victory, catching them in the cross-hairs of ‘truthful and honest’ test. Opposition leaders who were named in Panama papers could soon find themselves in hot waters for not disclosing their offshore companies in nomination papers. The writer is an author, blogger, and social activist. He can be reached at email@example.com and fb.com/Talha.afzal.127 Published in Daily Times, August 5th 2017.