Recently I was asked by a research center to speak on ‘Rule of Law’ to a select group of scholars and academics from all over Pakistan. My biggest challenge was its applicability in Pakistan. The standing ovation at the end meant that these eminent people on course of a shared journey to discovering an ailing Pakistan.

According to acclaimed modern political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy comprises four key elements. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens, and rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens. Even in the Constitution of Pakistan, the definition of the State is not complete without coopting the first three parts into the Constitution. They reflect the thesis of democracy.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s democracy and political ethics do not fit this definition and therefore violate the Constitution. The political parliamentary system with overlap of powers has remained exploitative. The methodology of elections through the election commission despite foolproof laws is flawed. The active participation of citizens in politics and civic life is frequently disrupted by high handedness of administrations, flowing through political objectives. Local self-governments are ineffective. Fundamental rights of citizens under Articles 8 to 28 of the Constitution, though guaranteed, can be usurped at a whim. Rule of law, defining the restriction of the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well defined and established laws, is skewed by expediencies. The four universally accepted principles of accountability and transparency, evenly applicable fundamental rights, legislation and dispensation of justice are all flawed. As of today, Pakistan is infected by a lack of transparency, absence of due process, lack of predictability, politicised enforcement and accountability and bad governance.

The corollaries to bad governance are furthered by lust for power and the pipedream of total subordination of all instruments of state to personal whims and desires of an autocrat sustained by a corrupt system, mutual back scratching and appeasement of foreign powers. The latest row is the civil-military balance. The government is hell-bent on advantageously tilting the balance, with the notion that in field armies, the leading general also becomes lame duck close to retirement. Hence, the highly classified leads given to Dawn and information on condition of anonymity to Times of India are stratagems for achieving such pipedreams. Yesterday’s meeting at the house of General Raheel Sharif between the Military High Command and confidants of Prime Minister were precisely meant to discuss progress on the planted story of 6 Oct 2016. The fact that this meeting was held at the residence of COAS indicates that the divides have widened. Events that followed immediately indicate that the government is in no mood to show any flexibility.

The message of defiance to the notion of national security breach came within minutes. Islamabad police cracked down on a closed door meeting of the youth of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Even ladies were not spared. Interestingly, it was not the Islamabad police but FC that led the charge.  The perception quickly spread that this FC led operation against citizens of Pakistan was a consensus reached in Rawalpindi the same evening and that the army was on board. Soon the social media was abuzz about the connivance of two Sharifs and it demonised the army. A late night ISPR release clarified that the meeting only pertained to national security breach of 6 Oct 2016.

But the reality is otherwise. This was a well-crafted event to put the military in a bad light. There is a difference and distinction between the military led Frontier Corps and police led Frontier Constabulary. This constabulary is a federal organisation primarily raised for policing FATA, PATA and B Areas.  As events unfolded, this heavily armed force in uniforms similar to Frontier Corps was shown led by an Islamabad police officer surrounding Imran Khan’s residence at Bani Gala.

A few days ago the Prime Minister had made a very curt statement with an implied threat. He said that Imran was playing a dug dugghi (Drums) to call someone. Later in talk shows his henchmen explained that Imran Khan was hell bent on creating anarchy that would ultimately invite third force interventions. Hence a perception was created that accountability sit-ins by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf were being planned on a nod from Rawalpindi. The attempt was to create the same images created during the dharna of 2014.

Pitched against an army insisting on implementing the National Action Plan in Punjab are the likes of PML-N MNA Chaudhary Abid Raza, with strong links to Jhanghvi Group; the government wants the military out of the calculus.  Yes, this is the same group seen around Rana Sana Ullah, the Punjab Home Minister, and whose leader Malik Ishaq was killed in a police encounter. How this criminal and terrorist made it to the parliament speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the election commission and ethics of the ruling party on where priorities lie.

The government policy is to challenge the army on every available opportunity and if ever, go down fighting as one that upheld the ethics of democracy. It feels that a tag of a political martyr will help its future rejuvenation like the Bhutto legacy. The military, aware of the colossal mess and international reactions exercises restraint. The government, rather than feeling secure, gets insecure by each day that passes. Most, it remains in awe of the popularity of armed forces and makes every effort to show them as demons.  The policy also suits Pakistan People’s Party parliamentarians who are keen to view the entire spectacle from the balconies as they stand nothing to lose.

Meanwhile, the damage to Pakistan is much beyond the national security leaks pertaining to the military and ISI. It is the destruction of the entire edifice of the state. Democracy under the universally laid paradigms is not functional. Foreign and domestic debts have spiraled. Exports are plummeting. Domestic growth is stunted. Energy projects are opaque. Regulatory and transparency mechanisms are compromised. Panama papers and statements thereof reveal involvement of the Prime Minister’s families in mega offshore businesses. The government does not wish to act against defaulters lest it has to act against itself. These issues are destroying the state from within and pushing Pakistan to the edge of insolvency. In most considered analysis this is the biggest security threat to Pakistan and the military can do nothing about it.

The above mentioned drift of the state to insolvency, bad governance and negative stratagems need to be checked by the opposition. But most opposition is already compromised. In this hopeless situation it is only Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf that is challenging the government. In a sequel to the police highhandedness in Islamabad and Punjab, and as one who understands the game plan, I made two definite comments on social media yesterday.

Candle mafia and apologists of leaks will one day hang their heads in error of judgement for not going berserk instead on the police mishandling of ladies of PTI. I am being kind not to call it a shame.

I am convinced that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf with its lofty slogans of justice, humanity and self-esteem has become the last line of defence for a democratic Pakistan under siege by foreign controlled actors, selfish and self-centered corrupt politicians and men of elastic conscience. Beyond the party, Imran’s charisma and leadership can inspire Pakistanis in all walks of life to rise and respond.  The time has come.