The Panama Papers controversy is incredibly resilient; it keeps moving from forum to forum. It started as a media witch hunt, moved to passionate speeches on the floor of the parliament, threatened to spill out on the streets before disappearing into the bowels of the Terms of Reference (ToR) commission. Throughout this process, the Supreme Court doggedly made sure it was not dragged into this mess. Now it seems the controversy is set to return to the Parliament – this time in the shape of legislation.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) submitted in the Senate on Wednesday a bill seeking constitution of a commission to conduct an inquiry into the Panama leaks under a specific set of ToRs – supposedly those decided by the parliamentary commission but ultimately rejected by the government. The Panama Papers Inquiry Act 2016 proposes a new kind of commission – replacing the one envisioned by the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1956 – which has more powers to summon individuals and evidence, hire experts, carry out audits, cooperate with international governments and bodies, and to publish its findings. As expected, the investigation will start from the Prime Minister and his family.

Essentially the bill is less a piece of national legislation that is applicable to all and sundry, and more of an alternative way to bring an investigation on the Sharif family using the Parliament. Considering the delaying and obfuscating tactics employed by the government regarding the investigation, this may be the only way to get the process moving; have the government debate the bill – or its reasons for retracting from it – at a public forum.

That seems to be the only achievable goal of this move, since the numeric advantage the government and its allies means that the chances of this bill becoming law are slim.

Especially since the Nawaz Sharif government will not sit idle. Already it has hastily commissioned a draft of its own version of a new inquiry bill, which is slated to be on the same lines as the 1956 bill – under which the Supreme Court has already refused to form a commission.

It seems like two steps forward, but we are really back to square one. The negotiation has moved from behind closed doors to an open forum – but the negotiators and their stances remain the same. We can expect more directionless debate, more delay, more empty promises and no investigation.