She was Pakistan’s Joan of Arc. The celebrated ‘Daughter of the East’ took over the mantle of leadership of the country’s most populous political movement in her bare twenties when her father and Pakistan’s first democratically elected Prime Minister was put to gallows for a murder he did not commit, setting a precedent that continues to splotch legal narrations. Captivity in blistering temperatures, corporal and psychosomatic torments by the death-dealing martial law regime could not fracture her resoluteness towards forming a government suggestive of the inclination of the masses. Her allegiance to the towering ideals of societal emancipation cost her life on homecoming in 2007. Marinated in blood, the Magna Carta outlined by Benazir Bhutto delineated the future pathway of democracy in Pakistan, which she always alluded to as the best revenge.

Nine years down the line, have the scores been settled and is democracy essentially the nonpareil mode of vengeance? In 2013, Pakistan experienced the first strife-free shift of command from one civilian government to another by means of a general election. This seemingly consolidated the roots of a mushrooming democratic organisation but partnered with incertitude on the connotations of democracy – simplistically, the rule of majority reached through an impartial ballot. A year later, this is fairly what sliced the first fissure in the legitimacy of government whose mandate was allegedly disputed. Reluctance to sanction an objective probe into the electoral impropriety incited sit-ins, putting the state at a standstill for half a year. The political orchestra buzzed of an iniquitous script and an umpire – concurrently, a portion of the opposition hopped in to save ‘democracy’.

Of late, the Panama Papers fiasco has produced a quagmire for the ruling party’s chief and broadly for the already crumbling democratic structure. Members of the government hastily rushed to the Prime Minister’s defence, who adopted a self-protective attitude in the two addresses to the nation on the subject, closing at a clichéd speech on his family’s riches to the National Assembly. That the opposition is in a position to harbour reservations about the illicitly stockpiled fortune of the head of the government indicates the strengthening of democratic rituals which would otherwise not have been conceivable in an absolute rule. However, the demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation ricochets amidst mudslinging and muscle-flexing with the government employing holdup tactics to obliterate the Prime Minister from a fair inquiry and liability, blatant in its jostle over the terms of reference for a lawful inquiry.

The lack of transparency smears the sanctity of the highest national office, as does the shots fired to disrupt the constitutional regime. Corruption is pervasive in all ranks in Pakistan, robbing it of Rs22 billion in a single day. Durable legal and organisational restructuring and mechanisms are essential to handle this bane and no political clout or barter should trifle with the course of accountability. Granting a clean-chit for corruption does no service to democracy; rather, it emasculates it. The wish to guard individuals must not take priority over institutional endurance.

In a similar stratum, the inscrutability shrouding the Prime Minister’s health has dislocated the republic’s business. His surgical undertaking involved total dismissal of the state in an affair concerning the physical wellbeing of its sovereign; the compulsory statements being conveyed by his family and disarray in Ministers’ accounts of the subject. Simultaneously, a US drone hit the Taliban chief in Balochistan and an accord on the purchase of F16s timed out. The not-so-federal budget for the fiscal year 2016-17 was approved. Clashes between Pak-Afghan forces on the Torkham border led to fatalities. Supervision of the country has audibly transferred to the GHQ because someone naturally has to take the job. While there is no disbelief of the tech-savvy aspect of the Prime Minister, directing nukes by means of Skype and text messages is a brand new conception. Whereas there is emptiness in the constitution on the case of the absent Prime Minister on the basis of physical condition, it is for the Parliament to lay down the pattern. The argument for an interim Prime Minister cannot be likened to insubordination; the country cannot be left to the boon of a person. The security and welfare of the state must always supersede the personality.

Reducing the democratic system to a counting of heads is erroneous. Governments must practically take charge of the interests of the state instead of delegating their work to different departments and afford the citizens adequate say in issues relating to them. Political victimisation, trampling dissent with force (Model Town, differently-able persons, peasants, cyber-crime bill etc.) and no more than outward regard for the Parliament by restraining power to a preferred few has malformed the system into an oligarchy. The lack of counter-terrorism and foreign policies are characteristic of the present establishment; jumping into the military’s bandwagon after the latter’s venture is a convenient strategy substitute which has enfeebled the line of democracy. Institutions’ working inside their domain is the quintessence of democracy, which is not at all the best revenge when governments shaped on vote behave as and lend power to anti-democratic forces. Constructing narratives around the let-down of prior governments is barely a justification for one’s own ineffectiveness. Squirreling away questions on performance with allegations of inviting the military should be a redundant tactic in the playbook now. The alternative to a dysfunctional democracy is not military dictatorship or technocracy. It is improved democracy which at present is endangered from within. Right now, the military is there because the chosen government is not.

The welfare of citizens must lie at the heart of a democratic regime. Chickening out from answerability and ruling out modification of an ailing system creates bitterness for it and is detrimental to its continuation. Taking turns to the treasury benches for plunder as professed is in every respect contrary to the spirit of the glorious Charter of Democracy which, if truly put into practice, can define the course to Pakistan’s progress and would be an eternal accolade to the grand memory of the Martyr of Democracy. While the United States struggles to shatter the glass ceiling, Pakistan made history by electing the first female Prime Minister in the Muslim world almost three decades ago. Leadership to Pakistan was BB – freedom, hope and opportunity.