So finally, the government seems to be moving on Madrassah reforms. It was too eager to listen to the reservations of our murky maulanas to make any headway on that count; quite in step with how it is visibly dragging its feet on virtually every point of the National Action Plan. Whether the champions of democracy like it or not, the credit for this positive momentum on madrassahs, as for most good things happening in Pakistan these days, goes to the Chief of the Army Staff.

While we thank God for General Raheel Sharif, we must also look closely at what ails our elected leadership and the structures of governance they preside over. Why do they find it so hard to rise up to the occasion and play their important role in meeting the challenges facing Pakistan? Why must it take the army chief to push the government to do what needs to be done? Is the Prime Minister not concerned about these nurseries of extremist violence?

Actually, his responsibility goes way beyond the security concerns, which are undoubtedly the most pressing dimension of madrassahs at the moment and the driving force behind the army chief’s interest. Given General Raheel’s sincerity and resolve, we can trust him and his reoriented and recharged team of able soldiers to take care of the security aspect. It doesn’t absolve the government of its responsibility regarding madrassahs though. In fact, the more significant role of the political leadership lies beyond that point.

Who, after all, is supposed to create the vision of reformed madrassahs if not the elected representatives and the governments they form? It’s not only about stopping the madrassahs from doing all the evil things they do and cutting off their links to militancy and sectarian funding. It is also about imagining a different future for 3 million Pakistani children? What will they be taught and who will be their guardians?

Does it not matter to our governments that most of these children are orphans or come from poor homes? Why are they so willing to leave them to the devices of professional maulvis and maulanas who fill their innocent minds with superstition, ignorance and hatred in the name of Islam? The Quran repeatedly commands us to look after the poor and the orphans, the widows and the disabled, the elderly and women. If we call ourselves Muslim and our country Islamic, our government must bear the responsibility of caring for disadvantaged groups. Or does the Prime Minister think that Islam boils down to frequent luxurious umrahs and a seven-star hajj?

If we had a prime minister with half the sincerity of our army chief, he would have some good news for these 3 million children, and consequently for all of us. He would have a plan to rescue these helpless children from the clutches of a professional clergy that uses Islam for worldly gains, a mercenary force that is trained to reduce curious minds into mindless fodder for their blind sectarian wars. He would have a plan to bring these secluded children into the mainstream and to ensure that they are well-looked after.

Before announcing another shahzadi metro-bus worth billions of rupees, wouldn’t it be better for the Sharif brothers to consider helping out these children? How about a Rs 50 billion package for turning madrassahs into model public schools with residential facilities for orphans and poor children? How about placing an administrator from the civil service above every madrassah to manage the funds? Or charting out a plan for the rehabilitation of the old madrassah staff and senior students, as they are replaced by regular teachers and government appointed senior citizens as guardians. The government could change the lives of these 3 million children for the price of one metro-bus route.

Saving so many children from mental and physical abuse would actually be good for all of us who are complicit in this mass crime. Our conscience wouldn’t be tortured by gory stories about how these unfortunate children are treated. It wouldn’t pinch our eye to see madrassahs encroaching upon green belts. In fact, it would give us peace of mind to see every day how well Pakistan takes care of its orphans and less-privileged children. But the government, it seems, has other things on its mind.

The Nawaz Sharif-Shahbaz Sharif duo and their coterie and courtiers would like us to believe that governance is about pampering a few roads and setting up expensive power plants that don’t work. Even in ordinary circumstances, the poison-mix of neo-liberal economic ideals they mouth and the corrupt networks of patronage that actually implement this ‘development’ are a recipe for disaster. At a time when Pakistan is under a multi-pronged attack, this lack of vision and responsibility on part of the elected government is actually criminal. Is our democracy project flawed to begin with?

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the province of Sindh. As the situation improves in Karachi and people heave a sigh of relief, the big guns of the two biggest parties in the province, the PPP and MQM, are complaining the most. Obviously, what’s good for the politicians is not so good for the public. Let’s face it: Our oh-so-precious democracy is proving to be the biggest hurdle in changing Pakistan for the better.

Commentators imprisoned in politically correct cocoons are mean when it comes to recognising the rise of General Raheel as a national hero. To everyone else, it is obvious that his initiative has turned around not only the institution he leads but also the country. The flag-bearers of democracy say that he shouldn’t be doing what he is doing because it amounts to the infringement of something called ‘parliamentary supremacy’. They say the same thing about the independent judiciary whenever it pushes politicians to follow the constitution.

The important point these politically correct pundits want us to completely ignore is that our sacred parliament does worse when it is not being ‘infringed’ upon by other state institutions.