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Panama Papers: An accountant’s address to the nation

Pakistan has a long history of generals in khaki uniform and sherwani clad political leaders appearing on national television to address the nation. It is not surprising that all of them, regardless of their dress, start with the exact same words “Mere Aziz Hamwatno”. They do not want to hide the unbearable love and affection they have in their hearts for the people and they want to express it with as much clarity as possible.

Lately, these addresses have been trending on media with even more popularity. Recently, in a span of just two weeks, the Prime Minister appeared on national television twice to address the nation. We have also seen a growing number of new candidates aspiring to perform this enviable feat.

However, these speeches can be easily classified as perfect examples of digression. Recently, a prominent leader from an opposition party took forty three minutes to say what could have easily been said in two minutes. Amazed at the sheer eloquence, or the lack of it, the Oxford Dictionary publishers have contacted these leaders to get the rights so these speeches could be used as examples of ‘beating about the bush’.

Motivated by the recent trend, a veteran accountant has decided to take advantage of this opportunity and address the nation about the principle of substance over form and its application to solve the mystery of panama papers. He has invited the media at his house in Johar Town. A desk has been set up in his room and on the background there is a beautiful painting of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. National anthem is played, and the address begins.

“My dear clients. Sorry! My dear fellow citizens, today I have not come to inform you about debit and credit because I do not want you to run away. In fact, today I want to tell the whole nation about a fundamental accounting principle and its wide ranging applications. But before going into detail, I want to say that since the inception of time, accountants have been stereotyped throughout history as boring people. I want to dispel that impression with utmost intensity because we are fun loving people and we know a lot of jokes. Just recently we threw a grand party because we were able to match the debits with the credits. We firmly believe that the world is safe as long as debits are matching with the credits. Even if there is a slightest mismatch, the world might be heading towards a disaster. So, I would request all story writers and movie directors to stop picking accountants whenever they want to portray a serious and boring person.

It’s also a widespread notion that accountants are some kind of emotionless robots. Now this is totally against the facts. Accountants are like artists and philosophers. From the masterstrokes of Pablo Picasso and Michelangelo to the existentialism of Nietzsche, we have mastered the art of….well, who am I kidding? You’re probably right. When it comes to choosing between emotions and numbers, we prefer the latter.

The most striking of all the allegations is that we pursue this profession because we are blinded by the greed for money. In my defense I want to tell you my life history.  My father was a hardworking man who worked all day in the burning heat of summers to bring us food so we could have a peaceful sleep. One day we heard that my maternal uncle’s son’s distant cousin got a car from his company. Upon further inquiry, we came to know that it was all due to chartered accountancy. I took the challenge and after twenty years of failing, I finally passed the papers. Now it’s your task to find a relation of this story to the allegation. I do not have time.

Coming back to the original question of substance over form, I want to tell you that it is a principle according to which substance takes precedence over form in the treatment of financial transactions to give a true and fair view. It can also be applied to the whole panama fiasco. While it may be legal to set up offshore companies and while a father may not be held accountable in the court of law for the conduct of his adult children, the fact that he receives 1.9 million dollars as a gift from his son who has secret offshore companies makes him a significant beneficiary of these companies which were not declared in the detail of assets submitted to Election Commission. Using the principle of substance over form, it is a clear case of concealment of assets. That brings an end to my speech. Thank you.

Pakistan Zindabad. Love Debit, Hate Credit!!!”

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