Salman Masood - Caesar, the Roman emperor, was famously warned by a soothsayer about the ‘ides of March’, a phrase immortalised by Shakespeare. It might be instructive to reflect on what happened last month.

Sometime in early March, Pakistani authorities arrest an Indian naval officer in Balochistan. The arrest is portrayed as a coup in the world of spies and clandestine networks. The Indian intelligence agent ran a vast network and was responsible for mayhem and chaos in Balochistan and also in Karachi, officials say.

On March 25, Pakistan summons the Indian High Commissioner to the foreign ministry, lodges a strong protest and hands out a demarche. On March 27, a suicide bomber rips through Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, one of the largest public parks of the city. Ordinarily, the park attracts a large number of visitors but that Sunday, the crowd was more than usual, including dozens of Christian families observing Easter. At least 75 people were killed in one of the worst attacks in Lahore in recent years.

Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a shadowy militant group, claims the responsibility of Lahore bombing. Earlier, this group had also claimed a bomb that tore through a bus carrying government employees in Peshawar. Operation Zarb-e-Azb is near completion in the province, the last redoubts of militants almost eradicated in the tribal regions, officials say. But the slow burning blowback continues; first in the shape of APS massacre and later in attacks on a university and a government installation in Charsadda in KP province.

Jamaat-e-Ahrar, now, warns that the Lahore bombing was to show that now their aim was directed at the Sharif brothers and their political stronghold Punjab.

Prime Minister Sharif holds meetings with his senior officials and vows to avenge the innocent deaths. The prime minister also addresses the nation, a rare move in his style of governance and leadership.

Simultaneously, the army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, holds meetings with his commanders and orders intelligence based operations in Punjab, the political fortress of the Sharifs. The announcement comes through a series of posts by the military on Twitter, the social networking service. 

The younger brother, Shahbaz, and his acolytes in the provinces have persistently claimed that there is no need for a military operation; the police and other civilian security apparatus are enough to counter the militants. The provincial police chief claims that there is no safe haven, no ‘no-go-area’, even in the southern parts, where militancy is supposed to be thriving.

Soon thousands of people are rounded up, described mostly as ‘facilitators’ but it remains unclear what relation they had with the Lahore bombing. Within two days, 95 percent of those detained are released. It also remains unclear why no move was made against them earlier if they posed such a grave threat. The provincial apex meeting does not hold any meeting post bombing. It remains unclear what stopped it from authorising an increase in intelligence based operations prior to the park.

While the bombing rattled Lahore, thousands of religious zealots, condemning the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, gather in Rawalpindi. The occasion was “Chehlum” of Qadri, a ritual observed the day after 40 days of death of a person. But the supporters are in a hurry — and an even more of a hurry to reach Islamabad. While Islamabad and Rawalpindi administrations watch on, the protesters move into the capital, easily removing occasional hurdles, and ensconce themselves at D-Chowk, which provides a clear view of the parliament.

Democracy is again in peril; the civilians seem slow in responding to the challenges while the military repeats its mantra of more support from the civilians.

Suddenly, there is a loud cacophony about how weak Nawaz has been on militancy and how reluctant the PML-N has been to move against militants in Punjab. Orchestrated accusations against Nawaz for being soft on India are spread on social media. Some come up with alleged evidence that some of the technical experts employed by a sugar mill owned by the Sharifs were Indians, essentially blaming them to be RAW agents. Some even go to the extent to declare the thrice-elected prime minister, who holds a majority in the parliament, as a ‘security risk’.

It is also in the same month that down in the southern part of the country, former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf manages to fly out to Dubai, effectively evading treason proceedings against him. 

During the ten years of his rule, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, was its staunch supporter inside the parliament and on the streets of Karachi. The then mayor of Karachi, Mustafa Kamal, was hugged and kissed by an overwhelmed Altaf Hussain, grateful for the work the young man had done for the city. But now, MQM is in the dock, accused of taking funding and directions from RAW. There is no effort to ask Musharraf about the MQM of his days and its links with the hostile intelligence agency, let alone any effort to hold him accountable.

While Musharraf suddenly finds his health recuperated enough to hold a political meeting in Dubai, Mustafa Kamal leads a cleansing mission in the port city. Mustafa Kamal was unaware of the sinister underpinnings of his political party for decades and has suddenly found the courage and conviction to shed away his past and fly the national flag with the enthusiasm and passion of a convert.

Meanwhile, the Iranian president visits Pakistan, ostensibly to improve and enhance economic ties. But the visit is overshadowed by the controversy about whether Gen Raheel Sharif had asked the Iranians to be tough on Indian intelligence operatives on their soil or not. The Iranian president denies such talk but the military claims — through tweets on social media — that such concerns were, in fact, raised.

Privately, Iranians are upset that sensitive matters of diplomacy were discussed publicly. Pakistani foreign office, which could take up the concerns in appropriate diplomatic language, fails to during this episode. Ansar Abbasi, the prominent investigative journalist, questions the ‘tweet policy’ in an opinion piece in a leading English daily, fearing that it was adversely affecting the civilian-military relations. But there is a strong rebuff by the military spokesman, who says that the opinion piece is an “attempt to question the performance of Army.”

The parallel, competing decisions taken by the civilians and the military were vividly apparent in March. There have been some attempts to contain the looming national and diplomatic fallout. But the disconnect portends a turmoil greater than ever.