PM Nawaz Sharif’s statement criticizing NAB has been the main focus of discussion in Pakistani media this week. The electronic media in particular went into a frenzy in its campaign for accountability of the rulers. No one can disagree with the need for across the board accountability. But has the media ever shown any interest in the accountability of generals and judges who also constitute important part of the ruling elite? No that is not on their radar.

It is hardly surprising. “Free media” in Pakistan knows the limits of its freedom. The deep state has been able to by and large tame the electronic media by making an example out of some journalists and media houses. The rest of them have fallen in line and interestingly there is a competition among most of the talk show anchors about their “creativity and innovation” in toeing the line of the deep state in its machinations against the republic. It is obvious that the huge commercial empires of the media houses can’t afford to incur the wrath of the real state. So attacking corrupt politicians remains the safe bet for the show to go on. After all memories are short and not many people remember that the dictatorships of General Ayub, Zia and Musharraf had used accountability as a tool for perpetuating their despotic rules and the country was never cleansed.

It is not for the first time during his present tenure that PM Nawaz Sharif has hinted at invisible hands busy in destabilising the system. Earlier during the sit in by certain political groups in Islamabad for overthrowing his government Nawaz Sharif and some of his closest lieutenants had pointed out in no uncertain terms that the aforementioned agitation was choreographed by certain elements from within the security establishment of the country. So much so that the defense minister even named the now retired head of the most important intelligence agency of the country for being the moving spirit behind the failed attempt to overthrow the elected government. This allegation was never denied or challenged by any one. Not even the otherwise super active and vocal ISPR had any comment to make on it. It is pretty obvious that the defense minister could not have leveled such a serious charge without having solid evidence to prove it. It is only natural to ask the question as to why no legal action was taken against people involved in conspiracies for toppling the elected government? Again it is pretty obvious that the deep state would not allow the trail of any of its sitting or even retired member. The treason trail against General Musharraf for abrogating the constitution is a case in point. Even the highest courts of the country were not able to ensure his appearance in the court let alone putting him on trail. The trail has come to a grinding halt and there have been no TV talk shows for unearthing the reasons behind it.

But before getting into the NAB controversy PM Nawaz Sharif had to face public embarrassment on another issue. It was about the recent terrorist attack in the Indian town of Pathankot. As we know PM Nawaz Sharif had phoned Indian PM Narendra Modi to assure that his government will take legal action against anyone from Pakistan who will be found involved in the incident. Indian government claimed to have sent some evidence against the proscribed organization JeM. Initially there were some vague reports about the detention of some leaders of the aforementioned organization and the closer of its offices. Later on a closer scrutiny of the news reports revealed that it was not true. But the ultimate embarrassment for the government emerged with the claiming of responsibility of Pathankot incident by some self proclaimed Jihadi elements based in Pakistan. The Prime Minister had to eat a humble pie as it become quite clear that taking action against “good Taliban” is beyond the powers of the civilian government. Apart from being public embarrassment for the PM it is also a set back for the country’s security and foreign policy. Who will take the Prime Minister’s or his government’s pronouncements about fighting against terrorism or about implementing National Action Plan seriously after this?

Unlike the past when civil-military divide in Pakistan would be watched for predicting the future of republic in Pakistan this time round the fate of republic in Afghanistan is also closely connected with struggle between republican and authoritarian forces in Pakistan. It is an open secret that the project of Talibanisation of Afghanistan is actively supported by the patrons of “good Taliban” in Pakistan, the same circles that wouldn’t allow civilian government in Pakistan to formulate security and foreign policy. It is also pretty clear that the predominance of Taliban in Afghanistan will have a fall out for Pakistan. If the past experience is anything to go by the ascendency of Taliban in Afghanistan is sure to encourage extremist elements in Pakistan to use violent means for coming into power here. So the destiny of democratic forces in both the countries was never before so closely interlinked as today. Hence the need for mutual solidarity.

While one can understand the anxiety of the elected government at getting reduced to the status of an appendage to the deep state but there is no explanation for the lack of initiative for reforming the system. In fact it is also true about all the political who claim to be champions of democracy. Political parties have to start the reform process from themselves. Use of the development funds by parliamentarians is an obvious source of corruption that needs to be stopped. Claims of commitment to democracy by political parties will have a hallow ring to it as long as there is no democracy with in political parties. The culture of patronage and lack of meritocracy is a blot on the face of democratic system. Reforms in these areas by political parties will give them the necessary moral ground and public support for reforming the state system and bringing the deep state under constitutional control. But Pakistan needs to come out of the paralyzing shackles of present diarchy. It shouldn’t be considered a zero sum game and abiding by the country’s constitution should be an honor and not humiliation for any individual or institution.