The Prime Minister may be in London but the controversy around his family’s assets continues to take centre stage in Pakistan – or more specifically the government’s fight against the assets controversy. Other leaders around the world scrambled to come clean; they publicly posted their assets and tax returns, immediately convened meetings to discuss reform of tax law and directed law authorities to initiate legal proceedings where necessary. After all, honest men should have nothing to hide. To his credit, our Prime Minister tried to do the same – he came on national television and immediately announced a judicial commission to investigate the claims against him – but as time goes on he looks less and less sincere.

As soon as the opposition parties started putting pressure on the government, this open and honest visage vanished. Out came counter accusations of corruption from government lawmakers and the composition of the judicial commission is being fiercely contested. It seems that the Prime Minister doesn’t want an open investigation, but a personally tailored one. The government rejected the demands of forming a commission under the sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for reasons that are known only to them. The opposition is correct in claiming that a retired judge is accountable to no one. He is not part of the judiciary anymore, his decision – correct or incorrect – will not impact his credibility or the trajectory of his career, and hence he is open to bias, especially when the government handpicks the one it wants. All valid concerns, but the government’s answer is a flat ‘no’. No refutations, no reasons for preferring an ex-judge over the Chief Justice – only denial. The opposition is right; you are not honest if you insist on picking your own judge.

Now it seems the government is unilaterally taking the decision. Although there is no official confirmation, but reportedly a retired judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan, Sarmad Jalal Usmani, has given conditional consent to head the commission to probe the persons allegedly involved in holding offshore companies as revealed in the Panama leaks. The government may have managed to get a retired judge on board but it seems unlikely the opposition parties will follow suit. Their demands have popular support and a one-sided decision will only anger the opposition.

It is understandable if Maryam Nawaz or Shahbaz Sharif shows such belligerence since they are the ones implicated. But for the whole PML-N – which consists of hundreds of elected officials with distinguished careers and distinct mandates – to act like the PR team of Nawaz Sharif is unfair to their constituencies. The party needs to be much more than the honour guard of the prime Minister; they must push for an open investigation themselves.