By all media accounts, the joint in-camera session of Parliament was a great leap forward for the nation. The eleven-hour session is being billed as historical, and there are at least two valid reasons to call it so. Firstly, criticised for being unaccountable and monopolising decision-making on vital security matters, the military leadership is reported to have asked the elected government to devise a security policy that it would implement. Furthermore, the hitherto beyond-reproach Director General, Inter-Services Intelligence, is reported to have offered himself for accountability by Parliament in the aftermath of the Abbottabad operation. And secondly, affirming its confidence in the armed forces, the joint house passed a unanimous resolution asking the government to review the terms of its engagement with the United States. The military establishment and the elected representatives seem to have overcome their mutual mistrust and appear to be on the same page. Now it is up to the Government of Pakistan to operationalise this national consensus. The 12-point resolution unanimously passed by the joint house has added to the strength and respect of Parliament. Virtually written off as a rowdy place that had nothing to do with the issues facing the people, it seems to have redeemed itself somewhat. The elected members of the two houses of Parliament, commonly viewed as engaged in power tussles for personal gains and oblivious of their public responsibilities, by standing up for the national interest and articulating the feelings of the nation, have done their duty by enunciating an honourable, balanced and realistic stand on what is unarguably the most important national issue at present, an issue that affects everything else that happens in Pakistan. Upholding the sovereignty of the country and condemning the Abbottabad operation as an attack on it, the resolution called upon the government to constitute an independent commission to fix the responsibility for the intelligence and security lapses. Terming such unilateral attacks unacceptable, it recommended to the government to take measures including a refusal to allow NATO supplies to be routed through the country, if similar attacks including the drone strikes are not halted. The resolution gave voice to the popular sentiment by asking the government to review the terms of its engagement with the United States in line with our national interests and asserted the unity of the people, the government and the armed forces in meeting the challenges facing the nation. Interestingly, the resolution also reaffirmed another resolution passed by the joint sitting of the Parliament on national security held in October 2010 that, among other things, had called for an end to drone strikes on the Pakistani territory. This essentially points the problem of democratic governance in our country. Despite the consensus expressed by the elected representatives over 30 months ago through that resolution, the government did nothing to address the unanimous concern of the parliamentarians. In fact, other than making impotent decorative statements on the issue, we saw our President and Prime Minister pulling in the opposite direction; convincing us that nothing could be done about the drone attacks, giving green signals to American officials in their private meetings, egging them on to continue the drone attacks without a worry and promising to be good obedient servants who'd take care of the fallout. So what does one make of this strange paradox? Does it make sense for the President and Prime Minister, who draw their legitimacy from the elected representatives, to ignore the consensus reached by the same elected representatives? From where do they derive the power to act in contradiction of the consensus of the elected Parliament? Does it not create an inherent weakness in our democratic dispensation that is being run from the top with the aloofness of autocrats who care two hoots about any institutional mechanism of formulating government policies? Instead of trying to create a consensus around their chosen policies, they have taken refuge behind hypocrisy; misleading the citizens and their representatives with statements meant for public consumption and acting according to their private understandings with their foreign friends. The military establishment has been a convenient scapegoat for them. They would like to pass the buck to the military leadership for their wrong policies or the lack of them. Having been in charge of the country for long years, the military does have its own take on things and would like to move things the way it wants. The question is: What stops the elected government to assert its rightful authority and put the house in order, correcting the national chain of command in a democratic government? The assumption is that people elect governments to take charge of things in the country and to accept the responsibility of running it in the way that it wishes according to the constitution. So why should our democratic government pick unconstitutional fights with the Supreme Court, rather than asserting its constitutional authority over the military? The argument that the military is too powerful does not carry weight. Rather than posing as a helpless victim of the military establishment, it would be far more democratic for the government to resign if it cannot perform its responsibilities that it has been elected for. Perhaps, the biggest hurdle in the way of creating a unanimity of purpose and perspective on core national issues has been the friction between elected governments and the powerful military establishment. Opinions vary on the cause of the friction. The politically-correct democracy pundits blame the military for refusing to allow the civilian leadership a free hand in taking important decisions when it comes to security and foreign policy. The other opinion dwells on the complete lack of credibility of the political leadership and the evident gap between national aspirations and interests, even when articulated by august houses of elected representatives, on the one hand, and the personal agendas of those who rule over democratic systems like military dictators. The eleven-hour joint session offers hope for better things to come. The military is ready for a constitutional relationship with the government. Now it is for the government to pay heed to Parliament and formulate a security policy in partnership with the military that does justice to the national consensus. The writer is a freelance columnist.