The parliamentary committee on the Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the Panama Papers is quickly running out of the stipulated time limit to come to an agreement over the trajectory of the investigation following the Panama Leaks. As expected, the debate has not even progressed an inch from where it began; the government is sticking to its stance regarding the inclusion of loan defaulters into the ambit and not targeting the Prime Minister specifically in this investigation, while the opposition disagrees with both. The delaying tactics employed by the King’s men are working like a charm, and the opposition has no answer. If there is a failure to break the deadlock by Tuesday, which seems to be the likely outcome, then the opposition’s hullabaloo has been entirely worthless.

Perhaps the biggest disgrace in this entire saga will be that the government formulates a law that the Prime Minister does not apply to himself. The Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar’s statement about seeking to devise a law to declare assets stored abroad is laughable. If PML-N sees not declaring offshore assets as a crime they want to stop, why not start with admitting that the Sharif family holdings outside this country are actually Nawaz Sharif’s? This duplicity is not going to win favours in any corner, but the sad fact is that the attempts to side-line what the debate really is about have already proven to be a success. The people that are still waiting for this issue to resolve no longer think of this as a moral problem about the rich exploiting legal loopholes they have left in the system to benefit themselves. It has only become about whether Nawaz Sharif will be investigated with due diligence, which in itself also rests on a very slim possibility.

The strategy to stall must not be allowed to work. The opposition parties have made many lofty statements about bringing the Prime Minister to task. Now they must prove there is substance behind those words. This must not be allowed to become a non-issue which is what electoral reform turned into. The government’s three-year stint has been spent dodging bullets on all sides, whether real or imaginary, and waiting patiently for the tide to turn in its favour, or at least for public sentiment against it to die out. The opposition has had the same amount of time to work on a counter strategy that works. But based on the mood emanating from the opposition’s side of the parliamentary committee, this might be another battle cry that turns into a whimper.