In the aftermath of Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification by the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr. Shahid Khaqal Abbasi was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

He was not the first choice for a majority of his party workers and parliamentarians (although none of them would accept this publicly). He was the choice of one person: Mr. Nawaz Sharif; in concurrence with his ambitious daughter, of course. And Mr. Sharif’s choice alone was sufficient, in itself, for Mr. Abbasi to become the Prime Minister. Hail democracy, and a majoritarian rule, in which every voice matters!

The initial few days of Mr. Abbasi’s premiership were spent in Changla Gali, at the feet of the emperor (and the emperor’s daughter). The photographic and video footage of Mr. Abbasi, from his days in Changla Gali, show a timid party worker, looking up towards a disqualified parliamentarian, for permission to speak or exercise powers that have been granted to him as a “sacred trust” by the Constitution and people of Pakistan. For supporters of PML-N, that moment demonstrated how Nawaz Sharif is still the ‘Prime Minister of hearts’. For a dispassionate observed, however, the image depicted a complete betrayal of the spirit and ethos of democracy as well as constitutionalism.

Be that as it may, it took a few days (and tremendous political haggling) before the new Prime Minister was instructed – by a disqualified parliamentarian and his unelected daughter – as to who will be included in the Cabinet. And the constitution of the Cabinet provides a window into how PML-N intends to conduct itself in the coming months, leading to the elections.

To put this in perspective, it is now an open secret that, over the past several months, a battle had been raging, at the heart of PML-N, between the ‘old loyalists’ (personified by Ch. Nisar Ali Khan), and a new brand of brutish political actors (lead by Maryam Nawaz). While Chaudhary Nisar’s camp had been arguing for non-confrontational politics, Maryam Nawaz’s side seems to be rallying for an all-out battle (with the army and the judiciary). Rok sako toh rok lo! And the Cabinet selection, which saw the likes of Talal Chaudhary, Mohsin Ranjha and Tariq Fazal Chaudhry being inducted, indicates a clear victory of Maryam Nawaz over Ch. Nisar Ali Khan. In fact, the appointment of Khawaja Asif – who not only represents the anti-Nisar camp within PML-N, but also the anti-Army sentiment within Maryam’s group – to the all-important post of Foreign Minister, demonstrates a desire for institutional confrontation, which is fast becoming PML-N’s core political strategy.

In all, Maryam Nawaz, who seems to control the toggles of Mr. Nawaz Sharif, is now the new PML-N. And this party, unlike its yesteryears, is pro-confrontation, anti-judiciary, and anti-army!

Interestingly, army and judiciary are not the only fronts on which Maryam Nawaz may be foolish enough to fight simultaneously. Internally, it looks like Maryam Nawaz has also picked a fight with Mr. Shehbaz Sharif’s family. During her mini-coup within PML-N, Maryam Nawaz has sidelined Mr. Shehbaz Sharif (and his sons), in regards to Islamabad’s politics. And, to this end, three events are of note: 1) Mr. Shehbaz Sharif’s prospects of becoming the Prime Minister have now been all but buried; 2) Hamza Shahbaz, the only person in Mian Sharif’s next generation who has had significant political struggle and experience, has not been granted any cabinet position; 3) No member of Shehbaz Sharif family attended the cabinet swearing-in ceremony, nor has made any public comment throughout this period. Because, behind closed doors, it seems it needs to be Maryam’s way, or the highway! And that applies to all of PML-N’s leadership, including Mr. Shehbaz Sharif and family.

In essence, we no longer live in the age of a constitutional democracy, in Pakistan. Between Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, we live in the time of Democracy (Pvt.) Ltd. A father and son (or daughter) enterprise. There is no room for dissent, in this political model. No space for independent thinking. Politics is now another name for serving the royal family members, only. And anyone who disagrees (e.g. Ch. Nisar Ali Khan), will be sidelined, even ridiculed (for having “missed the train”)! And in this structure of governance, we are not citizens of the State. We are subjects of the King.

The recent decision of Mr. Nawaz Sharif to travel by GT Road, instead of Motorway, is another example of Democracy (Pvt.) Ltd. While senior leaders such as Ch. Nisar and even Shehbaz Sharif advised against such a choice.

It needs to be asked: what will Mr. Nawaz Sharif achieve by making his journey, between Islamabad and Lahore, into a political spectacle? Is there any doubt that Mr. Nawaz Sharif is a popular leader across Pakistan, and especially in Punjab? No. Is there any doubt that PML-N can mobilize a large number of people, along the GT Road, to ensure that Mr. Nawaz Sharif is showered with rose petal at every stop? No. Is a large crowd even needed, for the GT Road to look jam-packed? No. Can a mere 10,000 people cause a spectacle that looks daunting on the highway? Yes. Will it cause inconvenience to people all along the way? Yes. Will ambulances be unnecessarily held up, and will school-going children be caught in the scene? Yes. Will it increase the security risk of Mr. Nawaz Sharif and his gathered supporters? Yes. Will there also be a possibility of political confrontation along the way, with members of opposition political parties? Of course.

But politics demands a spectacle. 

And this is the new democracy in Pakistan.

Here is truth: between Article 63-A of the Constitution, Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, we no longer live in a democracy. We live in a country in which, when the honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualifies an individual from being a Member of the National Assembly, after a thorough investigation, based on express Constitutional provisions, we continue to call that man “Mr. Prime Minister”. We call it a conspiracy. A robbing of the people’s mandate – irrespective of what the constitutional mandate might be. And then we find the likes of Mrs. Asma Jehangir to put a military-judicial spin on it, further edging the populace towards a clash of institutions.

Those wishing for this script, those aiding them, and those waiting on the sidelines (silently) so as to eventually caste their lot with the winning side, are weakening the project of democratic constitutionalism in the country. Ostensibly, they may call themselves democrats; however, they are nothing more than employees of Democracy (Pvt.) Ltd.