The Panama papers have stirred up quite a storm in Pakistan; one that the Prime Minister is in the middle off. His family members named in the leak and his associates are all under criticism from parties across the board. However he can take solace in the fact that he is not alone in facing this gauntlet. World leaders from United Kingdom Prime Minister to the President of Russia are all under domestic pressure, while global bodies such as Transparency International and the European Union are also joining the fray. With the Panama papers taking the world by storm, there is an illusion of safety in numbers, as no individual is signaled out. But in effect it is not dissimilar to a student justifying his failing grade by pointing out that the rest of the class fared badly too.

Just because everyone is doing it does not make it acceptable, and the world is coming to that realisation. Off-shore shell companies exist in the gray area between ‘tax-evasion’ and ‘tax-avoidance’, but with this leak that grey area is being increasingly defined – and not by the politicians. The Icelandic population was out en masse to demand the resignation of their Prime Minister after being implicated by the leaks, while the Chinese media has censored the report completely to prevent a similar public outcry. While the public is making a point with their anger known other people are calling for further definition of this gray area. UK Labour leader Jermy Cobryn is calling for tax reform and similar calls have been made by politicians in all countries over the world. Several regional bodies – such as the EU – are also calling for a stricter continent wide policy for the future. While everybody implicated in the leaks are saying “strictly speaking, what we did was legal” it does seem that the legality of the offshore shell company is about to come up for review globally.

And the plain fact is that it should. The ‘company’ is legal creation, made solely to conduct business efficiently – hence all the special features that it has. A ‘letter-box’ company – which has no office or employees, but exists to hold money – is clearly against that spirit. While free movement of capital does encourage investment and growth, but the leaks show that more often than not it is just used to avoid taxes, health and safety regulation, and even conduct criminal activities. The secrecy afforded to these tax havens have allowed them to dip into illegality; with several companies found contracting with sanctioned companies. The final question is; even if it tax avoidance and not evasion, why are semantics dictating policy? Why are the uber-rich allowed to escape paying taxes that could be used to help the needy? They already have enough – no more concessions.