The Panama vacuum

A file photo of Imran Khan. PHOTO: PPI

A file photo of Imran Khan. PHOTO: PPI

It is beginning to look as if the Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and other opposition parties regard parliament as something of an irrelevance. The issue driving the tide of ennui is that of the Panama Papers which the PTI and its allies have attempted to use as a lever to unseat the government of the PML-N. That they have failed to do so and have come nowhere near so much as inducing a bit of a wobble in the PML-N tenure ought to be obvious to all but the congenitally purblind.

Complex as the issues are that surround the Panama Papers, there is simplicity at the heart of the matter. The prime minister is not personally named in the papers and there is no evidence in the public domain that he or any of his family members have done anything other than what a lot of rich people do the world over — they put their money offshore in an attempt to limit taxation by the British government. The sources of that money are a matter of public interest and yes, we too would like any number of questions asked and answered. Countervailing that is the reality that offshore funds are hedged about with all manner of privacy instruments; and our own politicians of all major parties have grown similar hedges of legislative privacy in order to protect their financial doings from inquisitive eyes.

The PTI has said that it is willing to join the ‘emergency’ ToR talks scheduled for August 6 and at the same time signalled that it has scant interest in seeing the whole sorry tale debated in parliament and that we are once again (…and here we suffer a mighty yawn) to have the spectacle of container politics adorning our TV screens ad nauseum — and to no political effect whatsoever. Other opposition parties sense that the PTI is suffering a poverty of political imagination and packing up their tents prior to shuffling off over the horizon. If the PTI wants to demonstrate political maturity, then it needs to take the debate to parliament not the street corner. We await with mild interest but little real anticipation.

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