In a session that displayed all of the tricks (and some dark arts) of parliamentary procedure, the government managed to pass the Commissions of Inquiry Bill 2016 in the National Assembly – on its fourth attempt.

It is a shame to see a law – and a crucial one at that – to make it through the parliament with this little debate. The bill was quickly rubber stamped by the Law and Justice Standing Committee in the absence of opposition members. Once the bill was tabled, and the opposition tabled an alternative version, there was no engagement or effort to compromise, only attempts to manipulate and con the system into getting what each side wanted – repeatedly if need be.

To that end, it was depressing to see a house full of public representatives reduced to scheming in the hallways instead of talking on the merits of the case; the most disappointing of all was our honourable Speaker of the House, Ayaz Sadiq, who by now, has deserted even the veneer of neutrality and used every power that he had to do what his party wanted.

That being said, we do have a new law that advances the story of the Panamagate scandal. The new law was drafted after Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali wrote back to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while refusing to constitute an inquiry commission under the old law which he termed “toothless”, and as such the new bill empowers newly formed commissions to form international investigative teams, enter buildings and seize documents. However, with the matter already under the Supreme Court’s consideration, one wonders what is the utility of this bill now, and why the government was so hell-bent on passing a bill that seemingly endangers their own Prime Minister.

The answer lies in the finer print; that a commission still cannot give binding judgements – only recommendation, and that the powers of investigation still do not go far enough. In the political context, the passage of this bill precludes the opposition bill, which directly named the Prime Minister and his family as the subject of dedicated investigation. The government can now claim that it has followed the Chief Justice’s recommendations, and if a committee is to be formed, it will be formed under their own rule.

But this victory is a hollow victory, the Supreme Court having taken up the issue reserves to pass a judgement, which may include the forming of a commission – which which crucially does not have to follow the government’s new law. As it was a month ago, the matter rests in the court’s hands.