The new ‘Commission of Inquiry’ – formed to determine if increase in public debt between 2008 and 2018 was justified by infrastructure development programs – has begun to take shape. The constituents of the commission have been finalized, even if their names have not been announced yet, and the terms of reference have been decided. As far as the government is concerned, it is full steam ahead.

But full steam ahead to where?

The terms of reference are quite open-ended; they begin with a directive to reconcile borrowings with infrastructure projects, but soon devolve in more minute offences. Misuse of funds, favoritism in awards of contracts, inflated prices, personal use of state resources – more than probing overarching monetary and development policy the focus seems to be on petty corruption and political impropriety. These terms of reference may produce a report on the efficacy of our borrowing regime, but it is just as likely to produce a raft of allegations against politicians from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

This skew in the focus is reflected in the composition of the commission. Instead of economists weighing in on the justifications for development oriented loans we have representatives of the Military intelligence, Inter-Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency, NAB, State Bank of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, among others This is overkill if the goal is to go through public records. The aim seems to be to uncover some hidden crime, rather than reconcile national level policy decisions with their effects.

Under the leadership of Deputy Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Hussain Asghar, a bureaucrat that shares the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for accountability, it is quite likely this commission will produce a reference or two against opposition politicians.