“A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is

always a virtue; but

moderation in principle

is always a vice.”

– Thomas Paine

The politicians have finally matured in Pakistan; they seem determined and united to protect democracy. Further, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has expressed the army’s resolve to support the democratic process and transfer of power through impartial elections. The superior judiciary, too, has warned against any adventurism that may upset the applecart. Despite all this, there are a few people who believe that the polls will be delayed. To prove their point, nevertheless, they have history on their side.

Anyway, there are some signs on the horizon, which indicate that the candles are being burnt at both ends by those who don’t want the people’s will to prevail. Besides, several opinion polls conducted by legitimate organisations have added fuel to the fire because they do not represent the ground realities existing in the country.

The PPP-led coalition government, for instance,  is well aware that it has failed to deal with some of the challenges it inherited after the 2008 elections and that nothing substantial could be achieved for the poor. Yet, it can credit itself for initiating major reforms in the system that will go a long way in helping democracy thrive and ushering in an era where it will become extremely difficult for the anti-state elements to conspire to overthrow a democratically-elected government.

According to reports, “the PML-N and JUI-F have stepped up efforts to manoeuvre political space by nominating their respective candidates for election to the powerful office of country’s next chief executive.” This has set alarm bells ringing among those who are genuinely concerned not only about Pakistan’s security, but also political and economy initiatives that could impact its strategic interests.

It would, therefore, be prudent for the politicians to reach a consensus on the issue of the caretaker setup as quickly as possible because prolonging it will lead to unforeseen consequences.

Here it can be mentioned with certainty that some of the names have already been finalised for the new cabinet. It is expected that a highly skilled team of technocrats would be assigned the task of conducting impartial elections and running the affairs of the state.

This may sound very simple, but it is very difficult. The way people are joining the long list of turncoats would raise serious questions about their eligibility to contest polls.

Leaders of different political parties will have to be very careful while awarding tickets to the candidates. If traditional ways are followed and new initiatives are not put in place, it is certain that the next election will result in another hung Parliament that, perhaps, will not be able to complete its tenure facilitating the undemocratic forces to step-in. Thus, the burden squarely lies on the shoulders of PPP and PML-N leaders, who need to be careful about their role during the elections.

In addition, it is important for them to reach full consensus on the remaining issues. For example, in case the PPP and PML-N are unable to resolve the matter of the caretaker Prime Minister and it is assigned to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), there is a possibility that an attempt might be made to turn the interim setup into a long-term government.

All this and with certain reservations on the ECP by powerful political elements, who are presently not represented in the National Assembly, could create chaos in the country. One hopes that wisdom will prevail and Pakistan’s march on the road to democracy will continue without much hassle.

Any serious confrontation between the political parties has the potential not only to disrupt this march, but could also result in the early demise of the democratic dispensation. Those who are responsible to see that this objective is achieved will have to be extremely careful and avoid the pitfalls.

It is expected that all the major players will stay away from issues, which are highly destructive to democracy. To achieve this goal, tolerance should be the hallmark of the political leadership, the army and the superior judiciary. If this path is followed, certainly the democratic forces of Pakistan will succeed.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist. At present, he hosts a political programme on Pakistan Television.  Email: zarnatta@hotmail.com