Before Panama became a household name, another financial safe haven was a thorn in another government’s side; the Pakistan People’s Party and the Swiss banks scandal. And while the names and the charges are different, authorities in Pakistan faced the same difficulty faced by revenue authorities all around the world when tracking cross border money trails, a lack of information and non-existent protocols of disclosure, especially in jurisdictions that market their favourable financial laws to consumers. Even now, the Panama investigations have been hamstrung by a lack of credible information on the companies registered there and the assets and beneficiaries they have.

On Tuesday, the government claimed to be fixing one aspect of this problem. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar revealed that the Swiss government had agreed to revisit its bilateral convention on the avoidance of double taxation and had invited Pakistan to sign a fresh accord. This fresh accord, with strengthened language would allow Pakistani authorities to access information on bank accounts in Swiss banks and make information sharing more robust following the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) model for exchange.

If enacted, this would be a positive step, which would allow courts and taxation authorities to access information on Pakistani accounts in Switzerland – where it is reported that an excess of $200 billion is stashed away.

Whether this will significantly improve the crackdown on tax evasion and money laundering is another matter. As the Panama Papers showed, most tax heavens or protectionist financial regimes are not that well known and out of the way. The multiplicity of such places – ranging from the Cayman Islands to Hong Kong – means that a bilateral information sharing treaty with one of them does not dent the larger illicit trade all that much. While such treaties are surely beneficial and should be pursued with other jurisdictions, it makes more sense to restructure our domestic revenue and taxation regime to combat problems of tax evasion and money laundering.

This new accord would put the onus of seeking information on our tax authorities, and they have proven time and again to lack the political will, independence, and resources to pursue influential tax evaders. Even simple tax collection from Parliamentarians, whose records are under public scrutiny, has been a difficult task for federal and provincial tax bodies. Ishaq Dar’s time and energy would be spent better strengthening the local tax net and empowering tax authorities, before attempting to target the wealth stashed abroad.