Have you been watching the news this week? Are you scared out of your wits by the stomp of boots? Do you think institutions within our country are close to pointing the nukes at each other? Have you spoken to your therapist about how confused you feel when Mom and Dad and their lawyers have a public shouting match via press releases and press conferences?

I can imagine that like most people you’ve been watching developments with your hands over your eyes, grimacing at what you see, peeking through the gaps in your fingers. In Pakistan, it’s probably either terribly difficult or terrible easy to write a surreal/thriller/political comedy/tragedy, given the abundance of material in our everyday news coverage. Pakistan is the place where the fantastical happens all the time; secret memos, spies, true conspiracies, fake confrontations - you name it, we’ve seen it. Normal is not the norm in this land.

The most recent, slowly unfolding crisis - uncomfortable though it may be to witness - has had the unintended benefit of giving us, the viewer, time to consider our reaction, as well as increasing our stamina and pain threshold. Rumours of a coup had a telling and forbidding reaction across social media, an example of how Pakistan would react. We aren’t looking away from our mangled mess of a government and begging for a saviour. The only singly echoed desire today, among Pakistanis of all political affiliations, is elections. We’ve waited for four years for this and a fistfight between two fools in the village fountain, is not going to be enough for us to lose our patience and demand that either of the two fools be crowned king and the matter settled.

Neither side, between the civilian government and the military, is unsullied. Neither holds any higher moral ground. There is enough reason to doubt and be disappointed in both, so that the only viable option is the two together, hopefully keeping each other honest. In this tiff, neither will win us over in their ‘I, messiah’ sales pitches. And that’s a good thing. I’m glad they’re both washing their dirty linen in public. I’d rather Pakistani audiences know just how prolific a liar either side is, than labour under the misapprehension that one is wholly noble and the other wholly malicious.

Once this spat is over, both sides should know that neither will have won. The government will, and must always be civilian, whose greatest fear should be being ousted by polls as a result of public dissatisfaction with its performance. The armed forces will have to be much more honest about the realities Pakistan faces. For example, we know the drone attacks have restarted: the Air Force can’t shoot them down until the Prime Minister says and the PM can’t say until he gets a nod from the khakis, who understand that this will mean declaring war on the US - a war which obviously, no one in their right mind wants. Ergo, all this talk about we ‘can’ shoot down the drones is a lot of nonsense to equally tantalise and appease the public’s indignation, thus keeping it viable as a handy little pressure lever to twist as the need arises. Surely, makes your head spin!

Our disillusion has, thankfully, made us much more practical. We realise that, four years on the people we elected to office have not done their best work, the military we fund so well, has not managed to keep us (or, at times, even itself) safe, the ones we hate for supplying the poison cannot be blamed for us willingly swallowing it. The decline in the last few years, broadcasted live to our homes every day, has allowed us to be more honest about our failings, instead of existing in some antiseptic bubble. All our mistakes may have finally broken our obstinate pride and cleaved through our stubborn reassurances to the world that this isn’t a giant mess, we ‘meant for this to happen’.

And so, the country sits vigil at the bedside of the civilian government, struggling on life-support to survive the Senate elections. Whether the government makes it past the Senate polls or not, the military will not be invited by any Pakistani to fill a political vacuum, should one occur. The only option Pakistan will accept is free and fair general elections. Imran Khan had better hurry up if his PTI is to stand a chance, the sooner elections are held, the better Mian Nawaz Sharif’s prospects are of keeping the Captain at bay.

Email: rnizami@nawaiwaqt.com.pk