If using a quote from a fictional novel to construct an argument to oust a duly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan was not enough to surprise the legal fraternity, the use of a book keeping term to send the Prime Minister and his cabinet packing has certainly made the recent Supreme Court (SC) verdict a historic one. The verdict and the environment in which it was delivered have legal, political, economic and geostrategic implications and many analysts have dilated upon them. I am a humble student of accounting discipline and thus found the use of a business dictionary for establishing the meaning of asset for the purpose of declaration of assets quite thrilling. I regularly advise my students, both undergraduate and postgraduate ones, to use dictionaries and generic sources for understanding a term or a concept but not as references for defining key concepts. Now I will have a hard time if my students refer to the SC verdict in defending their research effort. The definition of asset used for the disqualification of the PM has already stirred the humorous side of the social media. For instance a post made rounds that all female parliamentarians stood disqualified as they had failed to declare haqmehr as a receivable in their assets form. Many respectable voices of print media have also come heavy on the verdict as editorials and opinion pieces published in national and international papers have taken a dim view of the basis of the judgment. An editorial of daily Dawn has gone to the extent of suggesting a full court bench review to redress obvious miscarriage of justice. I would therefore not repeat what has already been pointed out by learned analysts. I would however share my observations about the notion of ‘asset’ that has been invoked by the honourable judges of the SC bench. What constitutes an asset is not an easy question to be answered. Accounting scholars and regulators have been trying to agree on a single definition of ‘asset’ for long. The Financial Times newspaper that specialises in financial matters defines asset as “something belonging to an individual or a business that has value or the power to earn money”. A nominal salary account, where both the recipient and the payer certify that due to honorary arrangement no intention of actual transaction of salary existed, fails the test of this definition and hence can’t be classified as an asset as the account neither had economic value nor the power to earn money. A newspaper, however respectable it maybe, cannot be wholly relied upon for the purpose of definition of a key term. So let us move to the actual custodians of accounting discipline; the accounting standards setting bodies. There are two important bodies; Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) which is US based, while the second one is the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) which develops accounting standards for international adoption. The first challenge for such bodies is to agree on a conceptual framework against which practical problems can be tested objectively. Such a framework works as a guidance umbrella for fundamental financial reporting issues including definitions of basic elements of financial statements eg assets and liabilities and their measurement. The definition of ‘asset’ used for the disqualification of the PM has already stirred the humorous side of social media. For instance, a post made the rounds saying that all female parliamentarians stood disqualified as they had failed to declare haqmehr as a receivable in their assets form The first conceptual framework for financial reporting was developed in the 1970s by the FASB while IASB developed its own conceptual framework in 1989 and later in 2010 IASB issued a revised version of its conceptual framework after working closely with the FASB. Both bodies have been working for years on a project of developing a common framework. It is interesting to see how our judges found a quick fix definition of ‘asset’ while the custodians of accounting discipline have taken years and are still working on it. In the existing IASB framework ‘asset’ has been defined as “a resource controlled by the entity as a result of past events and from which future economic benefits are expected to flow to the entity.” If this definition is applied to the case of non-receipt of a nominal salary we can see that it would not qualify as an asset if both the recipient and the payer certify that no intention of actual payment existed in reality and hence no future economic benefit was expected. These definitions of assets are relevant for financial statements of business entities and not employees. In the case of employees an asset is to be interpreted in its everyday usage. The reasonability test needs to be applied ie how a man of common intellect would interpret the word in everyday usage. Since filing nomination papers and declaration of assets are a legal process the word asset must be seen in terms of statutory definitions. The Income tax ordinance defines the word salary as paid and not accrued therefore a filer of declaration of assets is under no obligation to treat unpaid remuneration as an asset. To put it in a nutshell, neither accounting terminology nor our legislation supports the adventurous course adopted by our judiciary in the PM’s disqualification case. One is reminded of Aesop’s fable number 155 where a wolf after failing in establishing the charge of wrongdoing on a lamb finally declares that the wrongdoer must have been her mother and then conveniently pounces on the lamb and devours it. The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected] Published in Daily Times, August 2nd , 2017.