The history of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is riddled with treachery and conspiracies - a historic hallmark of all Muslim dynasties. While the rulers remain engaged in ensuring their personal survival, the people stay in an indifferent submissiveness. Our first Prime Minister, who had spent most part of his life assisting the Quaid-i-Azam in the long struggle to create Pakistan, was assassinated in a public meeting in Rawalpindi on October 16,1951 - just over four years after its inception. The unknown assailant among the crowd was instantly killed by mysterious agents, whose identities were never revealed. No one knows till to-date who planned the murder and for what motives. The next seven years witnessed seven Prime Ministers come and go in quick succession. Hardly anyone can even remember the names of these prominent individuals, who had played important roles in the formation of early Pakistan, under difficult circumstances. The civil-military bureaucracy sensed the weaknesses of the politicians, their lack of following and roots among the people with diverse ethnicity and exploited them to their advantage with carrot and stick. Finally on October 7, 1958, the Commander in Chief of the armed forces decided to appear upfront. He forced the soldier turned bureaucrat President to declare martial law throughout the country. On November 2, the first martial law administrator, General Ayub Khan, exiled the President of Pakistan, Major General Iskandar Mirza, and appointed himself as President. Characteristically, the people, oppressed and simple as they were, breathed a sigh of relief and looked forward to a prosperous future under a strong leader, oblivious to the repercussions of the disastrous course our country had taken. The new regime proceeded to introduce social reforms and an economic revolution. The seat of capital was shifted from Karachi to a newly-conceived city in the Margalla Hills and named it Islamabad. Pakistan earned a good repute in the international community and moved closer to the United States of America. On September 6, 1965, the second war over Kashmir was waged between India and Pakistan that was short-lived, as neither had the capacity for a long-drawn war. A ceasefire was agreed on September 23 and the Tashkent Declaration was signed between India and Pakistan on January 10, 1966. One of the brightest young ministers that General, now Field Marshal Ayub Khan, inducted in his cabinet was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), who rose to become the Foreign Minister. Following a difference of opinion on the Tashkent Agreement, the ambitious ZAB resigned in protest in June 1966 and launched his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on December 1, 1967, immediately throwing a challenge to the Ayub regime. On March 25, 1969, President Ayub resigned consequent to countrywide disturbances and student protests and handed over power to the army chief, in contravention of the provisions of the constitution that he himself had masterminded. General Yahya Khan proclaimed martial law and dissolved the Assemblies. The nexus of army-civil bureaucracy supported by a segment of politicians and other national and international vested interests, now known as the establishment, was once again in action. Ayub Khan died unceremoniously in virtual house arrest. The 1971 general elections held on the basis of ‘one man, one vote’ resulted in a split mandate. The Awami League, headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, emerged as the single largest party, but with no representation in the western wing of the country and the PPP emerged as the leading party in West Pakistan. As a government could not be formed and East Pakistan became ungovernable, the Indian forces grabbed the opportunity to enter East Pakistan on November 22, 1971, and launched a full-scale attack. General Niazi of the Pakistan Army surrendered to the Indian forces on December 16 and was taken prisoner along with 70,000 other West Pakistanis. East Pakistan broke away and declared itself as an independent Bangladesh. Yahya Khan handed over power of what was left of Pakistan to ZAB and drank himself to death in anonymity.The charismatic and firebrand ZAB inducted a new generation of unknown politicians based on his socialist idealism. The 1973 constitution was speedily framed and enacted with consensus on April 10, 1973. The prisoners of war returned through an accord signed in New Delhi in August 1973. Numerous foreign policy offensives were set in motion. A nuclear weapon programme was launched and several major projects were launched in the public sector. A new education policy was enforced and key privately-owned industries were nationalised that alienated the private sector. Gradually, the initial idealism was replaced by pragmatism and the affluent landowners dominated the ruling class. An opposition political alliance was formed that resisted the government, creating disorder and dissatisfaction among the masses, paralysing the government.On September 16, 1978, the handpicked Army Chief, General Ziaul Haq, proclaimed the fourth martial law and arrested Prime Minister Bhutto, who was later sentenced to death and executed subsequent to a dubious trial. Though many were grief-stricken, not many took to the streets to express resentment at the judicial murder or the killing of democracy. The 10-year rule of General Zia saw an economic revival, Islamisation, the birth of mujahideen and the retreat of the Russians from Afghanistan. President Zia was saved from the ultimate possible humiliation by a plane crash near Bahawalpur on August 17, 1988, in which several generals and the American ambassador were also killed. How and why the military aircraft blew up in mid-air, shortly after take-off from Multan, is still shrouded in mystery. A game of musical chairs was played between Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif during the next 11 years each taking two turns, with the so-called establishment pulling the strings - until another general pulled the plug on October 12, 1999. The elected Prime Minister with a two-third majority in Parliament was ousted, arrested, humiliated, jailed and later exiled for 10 years. Many rejoiced. No one protested and life resumed as normal. General Pervez Musharraf assumed power for the next decade, installing himself as President retaining the portfolio of Army Chief of Staff. The US and Britain brokered a deal between President Musharraf and the PPP led by Ms Benazir for the return of democracy. Resultantly, both the leaders in exile in Dubai and Saudi Arabia returned to Pakistan to participate in a general election, out of which one was destined to be a martyr and the other to become a third time Prime Minister. The 2008 elections ushered in a new era of democratic rule for five years that appeared fragile, but managed to survive with constant hiccups. President Musharraf was eased out of the presidency and went into self-exile only to return voluntarily to participate in the 2013 elections and to ‘save Pakistan’. The politicians quarrelled and defamed each other and set new records of incompetence, financial corruption and disloyalty to the people. Ex-President General Musharraf was not allowed to contest the elections by the courts and is presently under house arrest facing multiple charges ranging from treason to murder. Many believe democracy has taken firm roots in our country with the peaceful transfer of power subsequent to the 2013 general elections. The cost of the experiment has been heavy on the people, as all state institutions have been run to the ground and the economy is barely afloat. Terrorism, sectarianism and political mafia wars take innocent lives at will and regionalism is raising its ugly head as never before.The frivolous debates and inaction exhibit lack of capacity and seriousness of various factions of the government to comprehend the gravity of problems at hand and the unity, focus, urgency and speed at which they need to be tackled. Many believe that democracy is just a better system of governance. But democracy on its own cannot feed and clothe or provide shelter and security to the people. 

The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.