Prisoners on both sides during the First and Second World Wars were famous for the ingenuity of their escape plans. British prisoners built a glider in the roof of Colditz Castle but the war ended before they got a chance to fly it. Escapes became the subject of cinema, and the French La Grande Illusion directed by Renoir in 1937 is a classic of the genre — and quite possibly on the must-see list of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif if his performance on April 22 is anything to go by. It was a minor classic all by itself and worthy of Harry Houdini such were the wiles of political escapology on display.
What the prime minister delivered in his address was essentially an open-ended option as far as any Panama Papers inquiry went, with no time frame offered as to completion. It is all-encompassing too, a catch-all that brings in past and present office-holders and guarantees maximum longevity to the process whilst providing any number of opportunities to dodge up blind alleys. All this when — and here we believe we read the mood of the public aright — there is a national desire for there to be specific investigations regarding the Panama Papers and the prime minister and his extended family as the primary focus. The small fry can be investigated at a later date.
What the address failed to acknowledge was that any such sentiment exists or was worthy of note, and neither was the example so pointedly made by the military as to its own willingness to be a participant in the accountability process, which was undoubtedly the spur for this opaque and circumlocutory public pronouncement. With the chief justice currently out of the country, his deputy is unlikely to want to touch this politically charged issue so any decision may have to wait until his return, and the Terms of Reference for the enquiry are going to take considerable political wrangling before being in a shape acceptable to all sides. The prisoners of the Panama Papers, the prime minister included, have called in the escape committees. We suggest an early search of the parliamentary roof-space, purely as a precautionary measure.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2016.
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