As a friend remarked the other day the goods that Pakistan's politicians and diplomats are endeavouring to sell are becoming increasingly unsellable. The concerned world is not taken in and neither are a goodly number of citizens of the state who are day by day voicing their disapproval, even disgust, with the way things are shaping up under this neo-PPP government. Patrick French writing in the New York Times on December 8 echoes the thoughts of many state citizens (as opposed to Asif Ali Zardari's 'non-state actors' and 'stateless actors'): "It does the people of Pakistan no favours for Washington to allow their leaders to continue with the strategy of perpetual diversion, asking India to be patient while denying the true nature of the immediate terrorist threat. I received this e-mail message recently from a friend in Karachi: 'Nowhere can get more depressing than Pakistan these days - barring some African failed states and Afghanistan'... "The remark by Pakistan's President, Asif Ali Zardari, that he did not think the terrorists came from Pakistan would be funny if it were not tragic." The next day, December 9, an op-ed column appeared in the same publication under the name of Asif Ali Zardari, ably written for him (with suitable stress on the sympathy factor) by one of the singularly few able men he has on call. In it he made no bones about admitting that Pakistan was beset by terrorists and terrorism, with over 600 terrorism-related incidents this year alone claiming the lives of over 2,000 Pakistanis. The target of these 'non-state actors' and the victim is the government of Pakistan, which, Zardari states, is fatigued by fanaticism, with its civil society dismembered, its democratic infrastructure destroyed, and with poverty fuelling this thoroughly depressing situation. He has committed his country to the "pursuit, arrest, trial and punishment of anyone involved" in the Mumbai attack. This is easier said than done. As noted an NYT news item of the same day, "American counterterrorism officials in Washington privately struck a sceptical tone...'In the past when they've promised to move against these guys, they'd pick up one or two of them and then several months later, they'd release them,' said a senior American official who has dealt with Pakistani authorities for several years....'Based on past patterns, we shouldn't expect much of this'..." However, cosmetic moves have been made by the government with the arrest of the Lashkar-e-Taiba's operational leader and others in Muzaffarabad, the corralling of Maulana Masood Azhar in Punjab, plus noises by the helpless cosmetic prime minister and his equally helpless foreign minister, but what about the Pakistan army and its spy agency, the ISI, which is said to have kept the Lashkar alive and kicking "as reservists who could be called on according to need?" As we have recently witnessed, moves to curb the ISI by this weak and precariously placed government came to naught. It was firmly put in its place and informed of its ranking in the national scenario. Closely linked to national terrorism and state actors is the recent case of the flight of foreign currency. While closely linked to the country's economic ills are the scams perpetrated over decades by high state actors. Earlier this month, the name of the Sindh Home Minister, Dr Zulfikar Mirza, was included in a list of proclaimed offenders in various bank fraud cases. Few were surprised. In stepped the unelected man and would-be prime minister, who with confidence can advise the press that rumours of the removal of the actual prime minister are but rumours. He, using his multifarious powers, suspended the FIA officials who had implicated Mirza castigating them with "severe negligence." And yet the president's minions piously preach democracy. Democracy devoid of accountability is their democratic style. If politics is third-rate, society will be no better. Our politicians, both in and out of uniform, have over the years presided over the decline of civil society, systematically hollowing it out with their feudal mind-set and practices, spreading intolerance, bigotry, corruption, and injustice. They, supported by the literate few and illiterate, have made a shambles of nation-building, and Pakistan is increasingly paying the price. We have enough laws. What we lack is men and women with the will to implement them. The writer is a freelance columnist E-maill arfc@cyber.net.pk