The Panama Papers are unique in the annals of politics in Pakistan in that they were externally generated, were not specifically aimed at Pakistan and are incontrovertibly factual. There has been no challenge from anywhere in the world as to their accuracy. They — at least in terms of being a record of offshore assets — are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They are not a figment of a fevered imagination or any part of a nebulous conspiracy theory and therein lay difficulties for politicians unused to either generating or dealing with hard facts.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is mentioned nowhere in the Panama Papers but members of his close family are and a lot of people would like him to answer questions about where the money came from, when and to whom — and exactly what was his part in any transaction. The PM has not the slightest intention of answering any of the questions put to him in this matter; and is protected anyway by a virtual palisade of domestic and international privacy laws and regulations designed with the opacity of concrete in mind.
The opposition parties and principally the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf have been banging their heads against a brick wall for months trying to unseat the PM on the basis of the Panama Papers and have got nowhere, and they are now bent on disruption in order to generate the necessary leverage. It did not work before and will not work this time either, but the PM and his allies have decided to respond anyway and are now seeking to have Imran Khan, leader of the PTI, disqualified from the National Assembly by virtue of a range of alleged misdemeanours and deficits. If the speaker of the house is unable to make a decision within 30 days, the Election Commission of Pakistan gets the ball. We expect no early result in that event. In terms of functional democracy, the common man benefits nothing from this sterile circularity, and the game of wheelchair croquet continues its tortuous way. Politicians serve for the common good? Stuff and nonsense.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2016.