After the Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers have brought forth names of individuals who have offshore holdings. Pakistani political scene is abuzz after the recent revelations. One reason is because the previous papers, Panama, were able to jolt the foundations of a very strong political party and create a current of uncertainty; leaving a huge power vacuum. Politicians are expecting the same reaction out of this. Secondly they now want to be part of the bandwagon which pushes for accountability because that is what the masses are seeking for at the moment.

In an attempt to join the wave of accountability, the Federal Bureau of Reserves (FBR) announced on Monday that notices will be issued to individuals whose names have been found in the papers. FBR’s Intelligence and Investigation Wing will work towards ensuring that the accused go through the same rigorous process that the accused of Panama papers went through. They will use the same pattern which was used at the time of Panama.

However, there is one minor glitch in the plan which FBR seems to be overlooking. And that is the kind of role it played at the time of Panama. There was nothing significant that the body could do to push the justice system forward and punish those named in the papers. They were stuck in a vicious cycle of giving notices to individuals and hoping that they would file responses. Since their notices were non-binding, and the FBR had no bilateral information sharing agreement with Panama – hence no access to details of the offshore accounts – the “accountability” it sought was superficial at best. If this is the kind of role that they are going to play, it is not going to effective at all.

The problem is that the FBR is not empowered enough to take on tax evasion through legally set up international offshore companies. Same is the case around the globe as well. Policies such as introduction of a blacklist by the European Union (EU) are being considered, but even these policies inherently weak. At this point the only solution, if the government is not ready to involve itself directly in the process, is to empower the FBR for the future by striking bilateral information sharing agreements with other nations and also backing their a global effort to bring this elusive cash into the tax net. FBR investigations will mean absolutely nothing when the state machinery is not actively backing the efforts.