At an urgent time like this, the tormentors of Pakistan could not have hoped for a more inept government running the country. Wasn’t our democracy supposed to mature with time and start delivering for those who really needed it? In the last six years, it has grown more like a heartless monster driven by a self-obsessed power-elite, leeching on the sweat and blood of citizens, devouring flesh and bones in the name of serving the people. Each day, our so-called democratic government makes us more vulnerable to the vultures circling above.

The scope of democratic governance within a capitalist framework on steroids is being questioned the world over, most significantly from within the bastions of the ‘civilized’ world- supposedly the epitome of democracy. Behind the facade of regular elections and the noisy circus of legislatures, governments in developed democracies have been exposed as little more than puppets; pushing policies that serve the interests of powerful moneyed lobbies at the cost of public welfare. The so-called free media has been reduced to a tool that manipulates rather than informs public opinion, a sensational 24-hour show to keep people distracted from the monumental crimes committed against them, in their name. And we are talking about model democracies here.

What about our very own sapling of democracy then? Can we hope that it would serve the people one day, given enough time? Will it become a tree that will give shade to people left out in the sun to die? Or is it a parasitic creeper that threatens to cover us all in subjugation and misery, its foliage so thick with privilege and patronage, that no ray of hope for an egalitarian society and social justice could penetrate it? With every passing day, I get more and more convinced that it is a fast-growing ivy, with thick leaves that protect its poison.

Picture this: Behind the smokescreen of a ceasefire and amidst unceasing terrorist attacks, the government is bent upon embracing, at all costs, a bunch of disunited sectarian terrorists who have declared war against the people and state of Pakistan. As if this was not enough, it is targeting the Pakistan military which is, if you really think about it, our last defense against these barbaric hordes. At a time when all state institutions must act in tandem, it is using the Musharraf trial as a bargaining chip to browbeat the men in khaki into accepting its shady dealings with the TTP. Its quest for the monopolization of state power is blind to the consequences of weakening an institution that is crucial to the fight against non-state actors out to undo the state.

The Nawaz government has outsourced economic policy to greedy two-faced witches at the IMF, brewing poisonous recipes to push us further in debt and dependence; burdening the poor and putting our family silver on a loot sale. Its foremost finance wizard is happy touting the 10 billion dollars he has collected in the begging bowl on crippling terms. The 1.5 billion dollars received from Saudi Arabia are shrouded in mystery and the Prime Minister would like us to believe that the hefty amount is basically a free lunch given by a friendly king on his personal guarantee.

It can be argued that it is the prerogative of a democratic government to handle the security and economy of the country in a manner that it deems appropriate. The problem is that there is nothing democratic about our democratic governments. The policies are not formulated through democratic processes and debates on the floor of the house but behind closed doors in consultation with a coterie and on instructions of foreign benefactors. The political parties are personality cults and dynasties fuelled by loyalty and sharing of largesse and not based on commitment to a shared political vision and program. There is no concept of transparency in decision making. Even the formality of elections is more of an eye-wash.

As it is, elections are not inclusive; most of the voters cannot afford to contest them. The small elite of moneyed power-players are the only choice placed before the electorate. Members of this privileged club patronize local leaders and criminal thugs for support, who in turn bribe and coerce voters. The electoral process itself is compromised on many counts, whether it is the beefed up electoral lists, the choice of electoral staff or rigging on polling day—violence, stuffing of ballot boxes and trashing of votes polled for the opponent et al. The entrenched parties have mastered the art of winning elections in every undemocratic way possible. The result is that the Zardari darbar has been replaced by the House of Sharif.

Hiding behind this tainted democratic legitimacy, our governments assume the right to push forth petty personal agendas at the cost of public welfare and national interest. Everybody is supposed to shut up because it is democracy speaking. Zardari subverted the independent judiciary harping on parliamentary supremacy and now Nawaz Sharif is using the same pretext to corner the military. Had their onslaught against other state institutions been based on some popular political vision, and rooted in an authentic democratic sensibility, it would have been just fine. The problem is that such domestic wars waged by our champions of democracy are aimed at personal empowerment and undeclared petty agendas and Pakistan and Pakistanis stand nothing to gain from them.

The sapling of our so-called democracy is growing for sure, the political power-elite tightening its grasp around the system with the obvious intent of making it totally subservient to its undemocratic interests. The empire that it basically serves is standing solidly behind it. At a time when the world is turning a new leaf and resistance to the hitherto unchallenged power of corporate imperialism is getting stronger, our six-year old democracy that refuses to grow up from being an infant is proving to be a big burden for the nation to carry.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.