The Joint Investigation Team (JIT)constituted to probe Panama Papers leaks related to the Sharif family submitted the third report to the Supreme Court bench overseeing its proceedings on Thursday afternoon. The team now has till the 10th of the next month to complete its investigation. After the final report on the probe is submitted to the SC bench, the latter will determine if the matter warrants a trial and, accordingly, refer the report to a trial court, unless the Apex court decides to hold the trial itself. Some pundits say that the biggest fear of the ruling party remains if the Sharifs’ political dispensation will be sent packing. Let us see if that is possible. Consider the following scenario: once the JIT submits its final report, say in the mid of July, the SC implementation bench will analyse it and make a decision on it. Even if the implementation bench considers the matter trial worthy, it may still need to refer it to the Chief Justice, say legal experts. This will take time. We may already be at the end of August by the time SC takes a decision on the JIT report. Come September, we may be in for a trial on the basis of the JIT findings -presuming the worst-case scenario that the SC decides to hold a trial. Needless to say, this will be a huge trial – much different from what then Prime Minister YousafRazaGilani went through. Every piece of evidencewill be contested and challenged by theSharifs’ legal team. Even if the proceedings take place on a super pace, we might be approaching October or even November by the time the trial comes to a close. Let us presume that the court finds damning evidence and,by November or December,disqualifies Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. PML-N government will have only about six to seven more months to complete its constitutional tenure. Let us even go a step further and assume that the verdict extends to Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif as well and he, too, is disqualified. What then? If the current constitutional arrangements stay in place, the remotely controlled PML-N governments in Islamabad and Lahore will continue till June 2018. Unlike the 1990s when two Sharif and two Benazir Bhutto-led governments were dismissed – we are in an absolutely different arena in 2017. Unlike the 90s, we live in the era of three dozen 24/7 television news channels. As many as 25 million Pakistanis are connected to Facebook and, similarly, there are millions on Twitter. With 150 million Pakistanis using mobile phones, we have more people speaking with their keypads than ever before. And most of the media and public opinion is clearly not in favour of any unconstitutional measures likea coup d’état. The main battleground remains Punjab where Sharifs have not yet lost the public trust. The PTI remains behind the PML-N and the recent flock of PPP turncoats has not added to the public prestige of the party whose banner of ‘change’keeps constantly changing. Meanwhile, the manner in which the JIT was constituted and the way it has acted up till now has tainted its image and presented it just a proxy. Refer to the WhatsApp/FaceTime fiasco and the JIT’s admission of media monitoring and of gathering information through technical means. The PML-N has succeeded to a great extent in drumming the impression home that the JIT is more of an exercise in witch-hunt and political victimisation. Nawaz and Shehbazon the streetsare likely to be more dangerous than in formal power. If Gilani’s removal could not cause any defection in PPP ranks, the possible removal of Sharifs through a judicial verdict would not cause any fissures in the ruling party. Come March next year, the PML-N would have strengthened itself further as a new batch of senators is elected. The decades-long investment of Sharifs and new development projects initiated under their dispensation since 2013 in the most powerful province as well as the centre will easily carry them through the 2018 elections. There is a possibility that thebaton gets passed to Maryam Nawaz.Whatever happens to her family in the Panama Papers case is not likely to impact her political future. Those busy in their itty-bitty games today may be left high and dry. Published in Daily Times, June 23rd, 2017.