There were two positions the Prime Minister could have during his speech at the National Assembly on Monday. The first, why and how his children owned offshore companies, and where they go the money that was put into these companies (whether given by him or otherwise). The second, he could deny his involvement in the whole business, say that that he was not named in the papers, and that the ToR’s should be finalised, a judicial commission set up, and whoever is to be investigated should be.

The first would have required him to given too much evidence to be used against him later, so as expected, he went for the latter. He claimed that no money had been taken from the national fund to prop up his enterprises. He was a businessman before he was in politics, all that the Sharif family has, whether in Saudi Arabia or UAE was legitimately invested and all his income has been taxed. The seven question the opposition had put forth were evaded. Yet, the burning question, where the money came from that allowed the Sharifs to buy the London apartments from, was addressed. It was legally made and inherited from various legal businesses.

He said all this, in a calm, non-provocative way, and the opposition, it seemed, did not know what to do with itself. After all its pre-session meetings and hype, there was barely a sentence of any worth that Khursheed Shah could muster before the walk-out. They had been complaining about non-stop that the PM needed to answer questions in parliament. Now they had him and not a single question was asked. The PM was allowed to take the bite out of the opposition’s game, by saying that the London flats were not bought from money made in Pakistan.

This was a parliamentary session, not a judicial hearing. The answers that the PM gave were political and evasive, but he was not going to give any clear facts other than his income tax statements, or admit to anything. When the judicial commission is formed it will be the one to investigate the hard facts. Meanwhile, the PM will finish his term, and he knows it. The best strategy right now for the opposition, after its dismal performance at the National Assembly, is to agree on the ToRs for the judicial commission. These cannot be so broad so that they try to address the totality of corruption in the county. Institutional failures cannot be addressed in one judicial commission- especially when the ruling party is evading questions and the opposition just wants to score points and pull the rug from under the PM in any way that it can. The commission must focus on the offshore accounts, of all Pakistani’s named in the papers, and whether this money was legally made. The ToRs need to be narrow, and with a goal to catch corruption under a very specific criteria.