LAHORE - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as expected, did not answer the seven questions the opposition parties had jointly asked him a few days ago. And the opposition parties missed a golden opportunity to grill him over his apparent failure to prove his and his children’s innocence in the formation of offshore companies.

Plague on both the houses.

It appears that opposition parties have some other agenda in their mind. Had it not been so, their behavior would have been completely different from what it was during Monday’s session of the lower house of parliament.

Already there are rumours that the political system faces a serious threat. The opposition parties’ decision to take the matters from parliament to streets would only lend credence to such rumours. And, God forbid, if the system is derailed the opposition parties cannot escape responsibility.

So far the opposition parties have been rightly criticizing the prime minister for his failure to appear in parliament. But when he did, they failed to perform their duty. And since the treasury and the opposition remain poles apart, more tension is likely to be seen in the days ahead.

It was a very tall claim on the part of the prime minister that not a single rupee had been transferred from Pakistan for the establishment of a steel mill in, UAE and Jeddah or the purchase of luxury flats in London. His other claim that after joining politics the Sharifs lost wealth instead of adding to it was also something difficult to swallow. But the opposition parties failed to challenge the veracity of the third time prime minister’s claims.

Everybody knows that Sharifs’ assets rapidly multiply when they are in power. Had this not been the case, how an industrialist family could afford to suck all its members in this field.

(There was a time when all three Sharif brothers: Mian Nawaz Sharif, Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Mian Abbas Sharif (now late) were members of the assemblies. One day the late Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan had commented in a light vein that he fails to understand why ‘poor’ Mian Muhammad Sharif was not holding any office).

As a matter of principle, the opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah should have challenged the premier’s claims with arguments and proof. He should have analyzed the prime minister’s speech in the house and let the people know the opposition’s questions he had failed to answer. Mention of all unanswered questions one by one would have exposed the shallowness of the PM’s claims and the level of his leadership.

After that, Imran Khan should have taken the floor and presented in the house whatever proofs he had got against the Sharif family. The PPP and PTI leaders could explain their respective points of view and pulverized the prime minister’s case. Such a strategy would have enabled the nation to better judge whose version was trustworthy to what extent.

But their utterly disappointing performance shows that the strategy the more than half a dozen parties of the so-called united opposition had worked out before the session had failed to meet the requirements of the situation.

In courts, if a petition is not pursued, the judge dismisses it on this very ground and then the petitioner cannot say that he had a very strong case.

After Monday’s session, one thing can be said with a degree of certainty. The gap between the government and the opposition parties is so wide that there is little possibility of them agreeing to a joint mechanism to resolve the controversy started by the Panama papers. They will never agree to make law and terms of reference for the commission required to investigate the allegations. The Supreme Court had refused to set up the commission on the government’s request as under the existing law it would be just a toothless body which would bring the apex court a bad name.

And when there is little possibility of the establishment of a commission to look into the legality of the offshore companies, the written off loans under political influence or the transfer or kickbacks money to foreign countries would also stay unaddressed. Has not the prime minister outsmarted all opposition parties? The leaders who have been pointing out glaring contradictions in the statements of the prime minister’s children on the issue of offshore companies and the London flats have done a great disservice to the country by keeping silent when they were required to speak out.