On Friday the Chief Justice of Pakistan finally weighed in on the debate surrounding the Panama probe that he is supposed to lead; saying that the Terms of Reference (ToRs) proposed by the government were too wide in scope, and without legislation giving the commission additional powers the probe will be “toothless”. These are strong words, and coming from the Chief Justice they gain more strength. Ostensibly they vindicate the opposition’s viewpoint in the debate – who have doubled down on the statement and paraded it as a moral victory – but in all probability both the government and the opposition are relived that the commission has not been formed.

The former because the probe into it's wrongdoing still hasn’t been formed, the latter because a wide scope would have roped in several of their members who were named in the papers. Both sides will appreciate the breather; Panama is a virtual Pandora’s Box. If the Prime Minister was being investigated for financial dishonesty the government would have made sure incidents like Jehangir Tareen’s waived of loans would have been investigated too – as they should be, being corruption of another kind.

While it does seem we are back at square one this impasse does provide us with a road-map forward; courtesy of the Chief Justice. The recommendation of the justice should form the blueprint for future action. The government could have stonewalled the opposition for being “too unreasonable” but ignoring explicit recommendations of its own nominated arbiter will be difficult to justify to the public. A commission formed through legislation and a definitive time-frame is sure to give the commission some teeth.

However, before the opposition gets too drunk on its “victory”, it must realise it is not out of the woods yet. The Chief Justice has asked for a list of individuals and incidents to be investigated; if Jehangir Tareen or Senator Rehman Malik make it to the list, the teeth will bite both ways.

The squabble over Panama seem like a manic fray to scratch each other’s eyes out, but up till now it has been more you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch yours. By conflating independent instances of financial dishonesty, both the government and opposition have grinded the investigation to a halt. All allegations need to be investigated; be it the impossibly rapid accumulation of wealth in off-shore companies by the Sharif family or the inequitable enrichment of the already rich by waiving of loans.

It is shameful that both sides are trying to pass off their dirty laundry by pointing out that the other’s is filthier, and cleaning none of it in the process.