As far as human shields go, there is only so much they can do. Keeping that in view, former PM Gilani did more than his part in standing by the president of Pakistan. Mr Gillani had to fall. From the PPP’s perspective, taking the hit was precisely the point. So no one in the PPP — or for that matter no student of politics with enough realism and cynicism — was shocked when Mr Gilani was disqualified. The fact that the timing of this suits the PPP more than any other stakeholder or power broker is a no-brainer. Now you can either be naively moralistic about such things, which at some level I admire, or you can be mature and skeptical. People often see their politics through a moral lens. This does not necessarily make their positions or justifications better — it just makes people feel better about themselves. The moral stance comes first and the reasoning is somehow tailored to accommodate a more base approach. Some of us admit it and others don’t. If you don’t believe this, read The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. Taking a moralistic approach to Gilani’s removal will of course allow many to assume the moral high ground. How could a PM flout the orders of the highest court in the land? This was a fundamental issue of accountability for many. The higher the office, the greater the power. The greater the power, the greater the responsibility. Spiderman and Optimus Prime told us that and now so has the Supreme Court. Being a superhero has its appeal. Those at the other end of this debate might argue that the contempt ruling never really, or at least meaningfully, engaged with the question of the immunity of the president. The Swiss prosecutor made statements supporting the stance of Mr Gilani. Some might argue that the SC cleverly skirted the issue of immunity by becoming hell bent on enforcement of one particular order. Allegations of corruption against politicians in Pakistan are more effective when not proven. Lack of accountability and allegations to that effect go with it. The argument could go on: Supreme Court took on politicians and a party that is not popular with the media or the army so forget about jurisprudential advances — this is about appearances. This argument isn’t necessarily valid but deserves contemplation. The initial contempt ruling left the question of disqualification open but through a new petition the Court turned the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly into a post-office and seemed to be saying, “disqualification was never really an open question.” In the SC’s defence, the bench that convicted Mr Gilani of contempt limited itself to the narrow issue of contempt and left the issue of disqualification to be played out. But, of course, others might argue that the SC knew that the disqualification issue would come before it and it wasted no time in taking that up. It made the most of the opportunity. Or has it? Has the apex court, despite what media frenzy indicates, handed the PPP what it will cherish most close to an election, i.e. a wound the party can show off to win great sympathy? For the PPP, the battles and lives lost are opportunities—not catastrophes. The PPP can now turn around and raise many questions: why this obsession and focus on the case of one man, i.e. Mr Zardari, when hardly anything has improved in the judicial system that affects the common man. The SC is not the only court in this country and without prejudice to the suo moto actions it is not the court of first instance for an overwhelming number of litigants in this country. What do they gain from such focus on one case? Another question: has the army and intelligence high command not been guilty of contempt of court? Think about cases of missing persons or even Mush’s Emergency. Will corps commanders, army chiefs (past and present) and spy masters be removed and punished? Or is our collective damnation limited to politicians? Are the women and minorities in this country any more secure because of judicial activism? Is justice more readily available to the ordinary litigant who has spent crushing hours and hard earned money to pursue his claims before the lower courts? I am not, categorically not, endorsing the PPP. I am trying to analyse where this debate might lead and who might gain more. That doesn’t mean I support the gains or losses. But these are issues we must think about since they are often presented to us in ways far too simplistic. They hardly ever are. As the new PM enters his office, calculations may already have been done. What will the PPP gain by now writing the letter to the Swiss authorities? Nothing. So why not continue to play hardball? Doesn’t mean I support that position but it wouldn’t be an irrational call in politics. So they lost a PM in the process but will they abandon the stance? They might gain huge sympathy especially if they use the right rhetoric. Losing one or many PMs might be worth it if it means another five years in power. Will we now have a line of PMs being tried for contempt and then disqualified? If that happens then it is not just the PPP that might suffer embarrassment. In fact, just to mock the issue, what if the PPP says to the SC, “okay, let’s play hardball now. Let’s see how far you can go with firing our prime ministers.” The common man in constituency based politics is hardly likely to view the PPP as corrupt and the SC as the messiah since justice has hardly improved at the grassroots level.And how much more evidence will then come forward regarding Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, and at what juncture, if the SC takes on the army and intel chiefs regarding the missing persons and extra judicial killings? The less eager the SC is in pursuing cases involving the army and intelligence agencies, the stronger the case for the PPP that it has been singled out. In an election year, that is music to the party’s ears. Political cases are hardly ever only about the rule of law. They relate to and reveal perceptions held by the actors involved — often of their own role in the present day and history. “Rental Raja” is not a flattering choice but why pick a strong man if he is only to be a human shield? If being the targets of victimisation is what has served the PPP historically, then the scorecard might read like this. PPP Opponents: 1, the PPP: 0—but we haven’t even arrived at the game yet. So beware. The writer is a Barrister and has a Masters in Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @wordoflaw.