In a much-anticipated development, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) announced its judgement regarding the Avenfield case as it overturned the conviction of PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her husband, Captain (retd) Safdar. Four years after they were convicted, the IHC has set aside the July 2018 accountability court ruling which comes as a big reprieve for the PML-N in the run up to the general elections.

There are now little to no hurdles in the path of Ms Nawaz contesting elections and becoming a formal member of the legislature, which will come as a big boost for the party given her rising popularity. While there will be much debate about whether relief should have been granted in this case, the more important questions relate to the integrity of our accountability systems. Each time a case of corruption is overturned, it raises further doubts over the credibility and impartialness of our accountability system.

Particularly in this case, many legal experts had pointed out flaws in the conviction and evidence procedure. On top of that, there is also the matter of the time and resources these cases take up as they linger on for years, only for them to be overturned and add to the distrust the public holds for accountability institutions. Additionally, this decision will only further add to the political chaos and increase polarisation. With the judgement coming at the height of a populist movement being led by the PTI, the party will certainly point to this as an example of the PDM staying in power just to shut down the cases pending against its leaders.

It is imperative that we move past this trend and bring in legislation to promote further transparency and audits of personal incomes and spending on public projects, so that there is no room for laws being misused or cases being filed without evidentiary requirements being fulfilled. What we need is an overhaul of our accountability and the anti-corruption regime which continues to lose credibility by the day.