Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif did not reveal anything new in his speech to the National Assembly, in what was his first statement on the floor of the house about the Panama Leaks, in which he was not named, though his children were mentioned as owning offshore companies. However, his speech was accounted a success for the parliamentary system of government, and this was apparently enough to paper over the ritualistic nature of the exercise, in which he more or less repeated his broadcast speeches. As the speech in Parliament was basically made on the demand of the opposition, it was also accounted its success.

It is interesting that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Aitzaz Ahsan, and PTI chief Imran Khan, are both by training political scientists (Aitzaz did a masters in political science from Government College, Imran graduated in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford University). After all, it seems to have been one of the motives of the boycott by the opposition of both the Houses to force Mian Nawaz to prove his accountability to Parliament. Mian Nawaz is not a political scientist by training, but he took a law degree, and the awareness it produced, combined with his decades in politics, would have taught him that Parliament is supposed to represent the people. This belief is rooted in a pre-20th century world, one which does not acknowledge the existence of the electronic media. Mian Nawaz, being a practical politician, seems to prefer speeches broadcast on television. He made two speeches on the Panama Leaks on television, in which he reached out to the electorate directly, and it was only the intervention by the opposition, that obliged him to address the representatives. Though the political broadcast dates back to the 1930s in both the USA and the UK, and is widely used the world over, it has no formal place in the democratic scheme of things, and is certainly not considered a substitute for speaking in the legislature.

However, leaving aside the niceties of parliamentary protocol, he made one substantive statement, which might well affect the outcome of the Panama Leaks investigation. He made the speech after his initial concession, that of not setting up a commission of retired Supreme Court judges, but of asking the Chief Justice of Pakistan, to constitute one, was rebuffed. Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali had rejected the Terms Of Reference as being too lengthy. Mian Nawaz asked Parliament to set up a committee to hammer out acceptable TORs. That has been done, with the opposition agreeing to end its boycott of Parliament incidentally leaving it free to participate in the committee.

Though the Panama Leaks have seen other examples, there have been no judicial commissions established, and thus no TORs which can conveniently be copied. The government TORs contemplate a wideranging enquiry into corruption; the TORs hammered out by the opposition want the Prime Minister investigated first of all. Apparently, this would place Pakistan somewhere between Iceland and the UK. In Iceland, the Prime Minister resigned after his name turned up in the Leaks, while in the UK, it seems that the Prime Minister, whose name appeared as a shareholder in his fathers firm, got away without being subjected to an enquiry, merely by making a statement in the House.

Now that Mian Nawaz has followed David Camerons example, has honour been satisfied? The PTI will probably not let go of the issue, because it is a fresh example of the kind of corruption it claims to be against. Admittedly, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has himself touched pitch and been defiled, and has admitted owning a flat through an offshore company, meant to avoid taxes. While no one has questioned the source of the money he claims, his earnings from county cricket, his partys leader Aleem Khan, his standardbearer in NA 122 and his travelling companion to the UK last month, also turns out to have owned an offshore company, owning properties in the UK. The distinction is supposed to be that Aleem Khan declared his properties while Mian Nawaz did not, but that may be too subtle a distinction for the Pakistani public to draw, especially since Mian Nawaz doesnt own properties. Aleem Khan is being spoken of as the person with the most to lose if the governments TORs are accepted.

One of the unintended victims of the Panama Leaks has been the Pakistani businessman who used to use an offshore company to avoid the repatriation of export proceeds, and to pay Pakistani taxes on them. However, that is a happening that now cannot be avoided: Pakistani businessmen are now busy trying to find some other means of avoiding taxes. Avoiding taxes is a legally protected position, and it is perhaps an irony that people who want to avoid taxes are given the responsibility of making the tax laws. The whole Panama Leaks episode seems to have an American agenda, for tighter tax compliance laws would make it easier for the USA to get its own tax evaders to pay up. That would in turn mean a heightened ability for it to pay for the War on Terror. It is also interesting that the Leaks have not turned up one of the types of people most inclined to money laundering: drug dealers. The only ones identified are South Americans involved in the cocaine trade. It seems as if those in the heroin trade in Pakistan have gone legit, or are using some other method to launder their funds. The danger is that they have not just turned to politics, but have become accepted, to the extent that they are seen primarily as politicians rather than drug dealers.

One of the effects of the Panama Leaks has been to focus attention on politicians corruption, not so much from the angle of how they make their money, or what they spend it on, but where they keep it. They make it from their power over taxpayers money, and spend it on campaigns to get re-elected. However, what seems to have pinched was the inability of the USA to take its share, with the result that so many have been exposed. While Pakistan has been hit by the revelations, it should be noted that Western models do not indicate that all that will happen. After all, outgoing Balochistan Finance Secretary Mushtaq Raisani indicated another concealment method, keeping Rs 870 million in cash, foreign currency and gold in unruly heaps at home.

Some saw the Panama Leaks as telling the corrupt that they should stop. However, they will stop using offshore companies in British ex-colony tax havens, and turn to other tax havens, like the ones in the USA, which remain cloaked by the same secrecy that made offshore companies so popular. Corruption will remain a popular slogan for any party, but as those who actually have to fight elections know only too well, its proceeds are needed to contest. Thus any party which assumes it is an easy rallying cry will find itself, like the PTI, mired in the same abuse it sought to remedy.