Amid reports of dwindling American support for his government, President Zardari has been talking of Pakistan's "fragile democracy" in his official meetings and media stake-outs during his current visit to Washington for the trilateral meeting summoned by President Barack Obama to fine-tune the operationalisation of his new AfPak strategy. Zardari tried to dispel the impression that his government's stability was threatened by the Taliban. "We have a 700,000-strong army. How could they take over?" he said in a CNN interview. In any case, he said: "Democracy in Pakistan is only seven months old." Earlier last week, at a news conference, President Obama had said that he was "gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan," not about an imminent Taliban takeover, but about what he called the "fragility" of Pakistan's civilian government and its ability to deliver basic services and "gain the support and the loyalty of their people." But after his meeting with Zardari, Obama retracted his earlier position and affirmed his commitment to the Zardari administration. "That commitment will not waver, and that support will be sustained," he said. However, what is becoming increasingly blatant is that the future of governments in Pakistan, elected or unelected, is now predicated on Washington's goodwill. One thought democratic governments in our country would be elected or changed only by the people through an independently cast ballot free from any outside pressure or influence. Our president is now equated with Afghanistan's overdressed Hamid Karzai who was picked-up and parachuted by the US from outside, and is now treated as a "democratically" elected president of his country. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we too have made a big farce of democracy. We have had a burlesque presidential election in October 2007 in which a military dictator while still in uniform as army chief proclaimed himself as constitutionally "re-elected" from the outgoing assemblies that had elected him for his last term and were completing their own term. On September 6 last year, we did have a real presidential election in which PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari was constitutionally elected as the first "democratically-chosen president" of Pakistan in a decade. But democracy is not all about elections or the principle of universal suffrage. It is about the people who are the final arbiters of their destiny and for whose welfare the elected leaders must devote themselves and their efforts. The people may vote as they have been "voting so affectionately" for three decades for Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, but ultimately it is history that intervenes with its judgement in cases where the people made a wrong choice. Despite the US backing till the last, General Musharraf did not survive more than a year. History didn't let him complete his five years. He was forced to quit, and now stands doomed to ignominy. The people in Pakistan after February 18 elections thought "real" democracy had finally returned to their country. But that does not appear to be the case. Zardari was elected democratically despite his past. The people gave him a chance to prove that "perceptions" over his past were ill founded. History is already registering its accounts, and is judging him fast. It is between history and Zardari now. Unfortunately, he is still holding on to his dictator predecessor's legacy in the form of Seventeenth Amendment. Zardari continues to wear General Musharraf's old pinching shoes. Meanwhile, there are already motivated speculations both in media and official circles in Washington of an impending change in Islamabad's political set-up. According to some analysts in Islamabad, blueprints of "constitutional and legal" contours of a "major" change are in the making. Senior politicians and even government office holders are reported to be admitting privately that things are not working out for the PPP government and some change has to come. A "political storm" is said to be brewing. No cosmetic measures, including revival of coalition with PML-N can contain this storm. The only solution, it seems, is another election. Instead of joining the PPP government at the Centre, PML-N needs to concentrate more on the governance in Punjab. Instead of waiting for things to happen, it must also use its presence and clout in the Parliament in seeking to correct the existing imbalances in the political system. It is already seeking relief from the Supreme Court on the question of its leadership's electoral eligibility. It must mobilise support in the Parliament for restoration of the October 12, 1999 constitution with early repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. For any state in the contemporary world, its constitution is its solemn and inviolable "social contract" which guarantees fundamental freedom and basic rights of its citizens, including their inalienable right to choose or change their government through independently cast ballot, and which establishes the power and duties of the government and provides the legal basis for its institutional structure. The problem with us is that democracy was never allowed to flourish in our country. We have been living with extra-constitutional devices and systemic aberrations with no parallel in political philosophy or contemporary history. Today, theoretically we have a parliamentary system but in effect, it is more presidential than even the normal version of presidential system. But this has been our tradition. In his historic address to Pakistan's first Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had urged the federal legislature to function as a fully representative and completely sovereign body. Unfortunately neither the then Constituent Assembly nor any of the subsequent Parliaments in our history have been able to function as a "full sovereign body" as was envisioned by the Quaid. The present National Assembly has not done any lawmaking other than legislating on their own perks and privileges. In the February 18 elections, the people of Pakistan had opted for democracy and moderation. They also said a big 'no' to religious extremism and violence. They showed to the world that contrary to what General Musharraf had been telling his Western audiences in his last days, they were fully capable of practicing real democracy with all its fundamental norms and values as are applicable to genuine democracies anywhere else in the world. Ironically, it is the "elected" rulers who have kept them deprived of the real democracy in Pakistan. There is no justification for an elected president to continue to draw his strength from the undemocratic legislative instruments left behind by a dictator. In the Charter of Democracy, the leaders of the two mainstream political parties, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had reaffirmed their commitment to the restoration of the 1973 constitution as it stood on October 12, 1999, and also to the fundamental values and freedoms as available in all democratic societies. They envisioned a new Pakistan free of violence and exploitation of all sorts, and stable and strong enough to be a factor of peace and stability in our region and the world at large. But the memory of Charter of Democracy is fast fading out, and has also been declared "no go area" for the "elected" National Assembly. For us, perhaps, this is one more agonising moment to reflect on what after all is wrong with our nation. It is nothing but our governance failures and leadership infirmities as well as the lust for power that continue to undermine the democratic process and institutional integrity in our country. A weak government will never be able to deliver governance or justice to its people, nor can it enforce its writ in areas where Al-Qaeda and Taliban are already challenging its authority through militancy and violence. The question is if democracy can make history in America, why doesn't it make history in our country? Don't we have anyone with credibility to bring stability to our country? Where is our Obama? Or shall we look for a Harry Potter to come and rescue our nation? But changing faces alone will not do. In order to root out our domestic weaknesses and systemic aberrations, we need nothing short of a revolution. Land reforms and undoing of privileges for the "privileged" at state expense should be the first step. It is time to say good bye to political dynasties and feudalist and elitist political culture. It is time for people's empowerment. Only men and women of integrity and education can provide the genuine alternative leadership. Let's be truly 'ourselves'. The writer is a former foreign secretary