All know that true democracy has to stand on three legs: The executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Pakistan, however, has made history of sorts by the fact that in the gaps between 31 years of military rule, which also the generals claimed to be democratic, it has had 33 years of 13 different democratic dispensations, seven of which came and went within the first 11 years of the new country. Examining each of these democracies under the microscope of the sacrosanct tenets of the same, one clearly sees a picture of Dorian Gray. Therefore, let the past be interned with the bones of those who have come and gone and let us examine what we are trapped in now.

While we have seen ruling generals and civilians of many shapes and sizes come and go, it is for the first time that we have the misfortune of suffering rule by a man, who came into power on the false promise of catching the killers of his estranged illustrious wife and providing food, clothing and shelter to the vanquished masses. He started off by holding up the picture of his wife wherever he went, including the General Assembly of the United Nations, and still hides behind the Bhutto name. This is intolerable enough, but the wrong is aggravated by his roughshod style of discharging the strictly limited presidential functions, stretching them to interfere in the executive and political activity, right down to the provincial level. He continues to lead as Co-Chairman of the PPP even when the Chairman is present, which not only violates the basic norms of party politics, but also constitutional provisions, resulting in contempt of the judgment of the Lahore High Court and chaotic conditions all around. Add to this, the variety of national and international corruption cases, in some of which he has been convicted (Surrey Palace and the Swiss cases, being on appeal in the latter), his malfunctioning ministers and hangers-on of highly ill repute and you have an executive which has not only let loose the hounds of plunder and gross maladministration, but also constitutes a government which is something to be ashamed of. It is no surprise then that he had to seek the protection of his foreign sponsors, as is evident in the ongoing memogate inquiry. It is by no means the intention to pre-empt the findings of the Memo Inquiry Commission, but there can be no doubt that if the memo exists, and Admiral Mike Mullen says it does, it is solely for the protection and benefit of Zardari and consequently Haqqani. Thus, we have a democracy in which the executive leg is only a drag rather than support.

Coming to the legislature, a senior journalist has raised a question of fundamental importance in the 1st February 2012 issue of his newspaper: If almost half the entries on the voters’ lists are bogus and hundreds of members of the Provincial and National Assemblies have fake degrees, with an equal number not having declared their assets, then the existing assemblies cannot be regarded as a legitimate and constitutional forums. And if not, then neither is the Senate, being elected by such members. The Supreme Court had taken note and stopped elections to the Senate seats on these very grounds, having previously ordered compilation of completely new electoral rolls. The net result of the whole deplorable state is that all the legislatures are illegitimate and unconstitutional. This means that all constitutional amendments, laws, resolutions, etc, passed by them amount to naught and the legislative leg of our democracy is fake. Thus, the executive and the legislature have no standing, but it must be noted that the cost to the nation, nevertheless, is more than Rs 500 billion per annum at a time when the economy stands totally shattered, the state reportedly survives only on printing Rs 300 billion a day and pays 90 percent of its revenues on foreign debt servicing, not to speak of the long list of other economic and financial disasters.

This leaves only the third leg of democracy, the judiciary, which is carrying such a load as to be sinking. It has become bogged down with petitions ranging from the trivial to murder and treason together with the suo moto action that it is compelled to take. It is only the higher courts that the people flock to for relief and look upon the judiciary, as the only venue of redemption. Litigation in the lower courts is endless with the complainant carrying the entire burden, while the defendant or respondent rests unconcerned. Judgments, if and when forthcoming, are ignored and warrants remain unenforced by the police. Corruption is also rampant, the burden of which too falls on the person who knocks at the door of the court. However, regardless of such drawbacks, the lopsided edifice of the collapsing democracy is being propped up only by the damaged leg of the judiciary and this cannot last long, as it is under heavy attack from the executive. Zardari says that the Supreme Court orders to reopen the Swiss cases will not be carried out. The Prime Minister is charged with contempt. Here it becomes relevant to recount an event of epoch-making importance: The whole world knows that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did not get a fair trial and was hanged on Zia’s orders delivered through the Supreme Court of the day. Nevertheless, he never committed contempt of court by declaring that the judgment was unjust and it should not be carried out. When he stood on the gallows, ‘finish it’ were the only words he uttered. Thus, out of the three legs of democracy, it is only the limping judiciary that survives? Can this honestly be called a democratic setup?

There has to be an immediate rescue operation not just to save the judiciary, but the entire edifice of democracy. All the institutions of the state are in a state of chaos and collapse. A complete accountability and reconstruction job is urgently required. An honest government of technocrats and patriots with no political ambitions and only the desire to serve, watched over by the Supreme Court, is one suggestion. But will anyone complain if the desired results are produced by a dictator? Another year of Zardari will leave nothing to be saved. Do we want Pakistan or do we want a democracy standing only on one damaged leg? What is the use of political leaders organising and showing off mammoth gatherings, which bear no results and allow the rot to continue? Nothing is achieved by competing to put on the biggest show. There are millions of lives at stake here, which cannot be told to wait and see. While political leaders are busy blowing hot and cold, termites are eating away at the foundations. If the shows that have been put on for the media and self-glorification are turned around and aimed at changing the rotten and intolerable status quo, success will be instant. Not to do so will make those responsible and as much answerable to the people as the ruling prophets of disaster and doom, who are the beneficiaries of this one-legged democracy.

The writer is former Governor and Chief Minister of Sindh.