The characteristic subordination of the means to an end is considered to be a hallmark of the Machiavellian art of statecraft. Essentially relying on its basic premise-‘the end justifies the means’, it strongly advocates employing any tactic or instrument while achieving a superior objective. This Machiavellian principle has been instrumental in articulating and consolidating authoritarian and despotic regimes all over the world for a long time. At present, in Pakistan, this doctrine also seems to have deeply penetrated the body politic. As a matter of fact, it has played a pivotal role in the whole formulation and evolution of the infamous ‘doctrine of necessity’ in the country.

Since independence, we have been artfully adding political symbols to our national discourse to be followed by the entire nation. Amongst them, the ‘state’ and ‘democracy’ are the most significant. Military dictators always pretend to protect the former while democratic leaders often tend to nourish the latter. In the name of saving the state, all extra-constitutional steps have been validated and elected representatives repeatedly shown the door. On the other hand, the politicians have constantly been labelling political systems like aristocracy, plutocracy and oligarchy as democracy. Choosing between these two systems has been a Hobson’s choice for disillusioned masses. Always, they have found themselves right in the middle of nowhere when the day is done.

In the absence of any healthy democratic traditions in the country, this Machiavellian tendency is rapidly becoming an essential part of our political culture. The recent Model Town incident in Lahore speaks volumes about the growing tendency. The Punjab government resorted to the use of excessive force to teach a lesson to a ‘revolutionary’ leader, after perceiving a potential threat to the fortified PML (N) regime. In order to save democracy and the system, the government considered itself justified in employing every tool or instrument including indiscriminate firing on unarmed protestors, seizing the whole locality, confining PAT workers, deliberately tampering with evidence and distorting case facts, diverting the flight carrying Dr. Qadri from Islamabad to Lahore, and withholding the report of the judicial inquiry commission in the “best interests” of the country and democracy.

On the other hand, the two marchers, Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri, have also evolved the new “sacred” goal of ousting a ‘fake government’ formed of ‘corrupt and incompetent’ individuals. According to them, this government is responsible for every crisis the country is currently in, and therefore it must be ousted by hook or by crook. In order to achieve this objective, two separate but simultaneous long marches from Lahore to Islamabad were arranged on Independence Day. The timing, modus operandi and the singularity of the objectives of both PAT’s Inqalab march and PTI’s Azadi march put the sincerity and credibility of their front-runners in to question.

Raising the slogan of ‘save the state, not politics’ Allama Tahir ul Qadri’s wants to replace this ‘unjust and obsolete’ system with another utopian or a sort of ultra-welfare state where the government will provide shelter and the basic amnesties of life to each individual without imposing tax on them. Interestingly, his proposed ten point agenda is very similar to the seven point agenda of ex-president Pervez Musharraf, announced at the time of his takeover in 1999. We have seen that Musharraf’s intended agenda proved nothing beyond a house of cards. His pledge to revive the economy resulted in economic stagnation and the worst kind of load shedding. His so-called across-the-broad accountability process ended at the notorious NRO. Without ensuring institutional reforms and popular participation, any such effort is bound to meet a similar fate.

The PTI leader Imran Khan has suddenly taken a U-turn vis-a-vis his political position; from liberal and democratic Fabian to a radical and aggressive revolutionary. He kept changing the goal post. First, he demanded the reopening of the electoral results of four constituencies. After this, he demanded extensive electoral reforms in the country. Finally, he demanded the PM’s resignation and dissolution of all national and provincial assemblies. For this purpose, he has decided to mobilize with street power. This protagonist of ‘change’ is acting as sole arbiter of the national interest, ignoring altogether other parliamentary political parties and federating units.

In order to get his so-called Azadi, he has also announced an ambiguous civil disobedience movement; instigating people to refuse paying taxes and utility bills. In this region, the great Indian freedom leader Mahatma Gandhi launched a civil disobedience movement against British colonial subjugation in the Subcontinent. Quid-e-Azam opposed this movement and didn’t take part in it. Ironically, Imran Khan intends to build ‘Quaid’s Pakistan’ through Gandhi’s vision.

Besides this, he is also openly warning police officials of dire consequences, even of hanging them and putting them behind bars by his own hands. He is also known for his antagonism for a particular channel, which he openly intimidates and maligns without any real evidence. He has informally declared himself the next Prime Minister through self-fulfilling prophesies. Ironically, he is critical of Nawaz’s early victory speech on the election night of May 11, 2013, but he has chosen to declare his own victory, even before an election.

The present attitude of PTI and PAT towards a democratically elected government is deplorable. Their tall claims of electoral rigging have not yet been legally substantiated. Instead of behaving like a political party, they are openly challenging the writ of the state and imposing their agenda by force like the TTP or some other terrorist outfit. Both talk highly of true and participatory democracy but their attitude is essentially authoritarian, non-accommodating and rigid. What political precedent are they going to set? What are they contributing to the political culture? Instead of trying instant quackery remedies, the present ailments of democracy can only be cured by more democracy; it is no doubt a slow process, but it relies on the capacity of the system to heal and balance institutions over time.

 The writer is a lawyer.