The January 10 Supreme Court five-bench judgment on the implementation of NRO has provided yet another window of opportunity for television talk shows to add spice for its addicts and attract more commercials. The usual experts and spokespersons were taken on line that went through their speculative analyses or well rehearsed party lines slinging mud on each other. It was business as usual in which any expression of solemnity or concern for the gravity of the ever deteriorating situation never seemed to have figured in their routines.

The short order was, in fact, an open charge sheet of unanimously compiled observations against the President, Prime Minister, Chairman NAB, and Law Secretary, which also embedded hidden warnings for a host of others. The court verdict suggested a choice of six options and an opportunity for the Attorney General to argue yet again before it on the next hearing on January 16 in a freshly constituted larger seven-member bench to be headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk.

The opposition sees blood and the government sees its salvage in becoming a martyr, while the primary concern of the coalition partners is to safeguard their rear keeping all options open. No serious apprehension or concern is visible for the tide that appears to be flowing towards the possible destruction or a severe dent at the very least, in the system and towards a battle of the turf between the State institutions. History seems to be repeating itself as fuel is being added to fire; no apparent serious efforts is underway for damage control and to get on with the real job of governance.

The temperature has been rising consistently over the last few weeks. The President has openly declared his government’s will not write to the Swiss Courts for reopening the $60 million case - in an act of defiance to the Supreme Court - nor will he seek immunity from the courts that he considers to be his right without asking. The Prime Minister, in the climax of his flip-flops, has finally taken the COAS and the DG, ISI head on by presenting his own charge sheet of misconduct against them. That, too, in an interview to a Chinese newspaper - People’s Daily Online - while the COAS was on an official visit to that country, adding insult to injury. He raised the stakes by summarily dismissing the Defence Secretary - a retired Army General on January 11, accusing him of overstepping his authority in submitting the statements of the top army generals to the Supreme Court appointed Judicial Commission investigating the memo scandal.

So, we have a situation here. The overall performance of the government has been dismal that it attributes to not being allowed a freehand by the powers that be. It has been articulating diversionary issues to stifle public outcry on the mounting hardships in their daily lives. There has been no dearth of opportunists to extend a helping hand to prop up the minority government from falling in a bid to procure their own pound of flesh.

In a mature working democracy, the inability to govern effectively would justifiably warrant a change of guard or going to the people voluntarily through an early poll. But not in our country! Here, anyone who comes to power one way or the other intends never to relinquish it - the State and its people be damned.

The opposition is, however, impatient to topple the government and has fanned unrest and disharmony among the people without submitting any alternative plans with which they propose to reinvent the country. The various components of the establishment are being used or influenced by one interest group or the other, making them nearly dysfunctional.

The armed forces, essentially the army, are overstretched with combating terrorism and are being constantly cajoled by external and internal pressure groups to make decisions that are not within their domain. None of the political parties in the coalition government inspire any confidence in their comprehension or ability to formulate long-term policies, exercise financial discipline, unify the people, generate resources and develop schemes for public welfare and economic uplift necessary to compete globally. Unfortunately, the opposition parties do not present a rosier alternative.

The ordinary public, therefore, has cultivated an indifference to the affairs of the State. It is not less than a miracle that the State organs still function, though sluggishly. Some say, it is the resilience of the Pakistani people, while some would call it their apathy. While the television talk show participants are fuming, frothing and analysing the clash of the titans threadbare and making dreadful predictions about the immediate future of the country, the average people of all strata are going about their business trying to ensure their next meal and enjoying it while it lasts. They have long resigned to their irrelevance in the larger picture.

The elite members and contestants in the Lahore Gymkhana elections are gathering at sumptuous lunches and dinners for canvassing and socialising where they are not worried if the government will last the next hour, a coup is simmering in someone‘s mind or the economy is on the verge of collapse. The restaurants of all levels are full of connoisseur of food, regardless of the price tab; the roads are jammed with shiny cars not caring for the ever-rising cost of fuels; and the hungry are guaranteed a meal any time at Data Darbar and a space to sleep under the sky in the green patches or somewhere on the pavement. No doubt other cosmopolitan centres are no different (barring the troubled ones). Life goes on!

The real intelligent ones in the know of things dismiss the current tug of war as clever moves in a chess game destined for a stalemate, since the judiciary, army and the politicians are left with no choice, but to learn to live with each other in a bickering joint family. The media will keep producing the talk shows and the leaders will keep holding big jalsas. The concerned citizens will keep watching on television in the confines of their homes or listening to their leaders in public gatherings making tall promises claiming to be working for the people and believing them, knowing full well they will never be fulfilled. All successive governments have failed the people. If the people wish to build this nation, they will have to find ways to do it for themselves - without any assistance and despite the self-serving governments.

The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.