It is becoming increasingly obvious that the ordinary citizen of Pakistan is in a no-win situation. There is no winning on any score, whether it involves the mundane supply of utilities, such as power and water, of which all income groups are in some way deprived (thought he well-heeled are better off as they have the wherewithal to alleviate their lot). There is no winning against any government department, unless one's pockets are extremely deep as buying up government servants is no problem at all but it does cost. So the lower income groups and those existing just above and far below the poverty line are stymied. By and large the people of Pakistan tend to lie down and take what is dished out to them - there have been sporadic displays of anger against the so-called authorities whose authority is directed purely towards self. We have seen useless tyre-burning exercises and mini-demos staged from time to time, but no large-scale exhibition of disgust at the crumbling state of the nation. Take for instance the Iranian reaction to rigged elections, the people are showing a lot of spunk and dedication, which has not happened here for well over 30 years despite rigged after rigged elections in this 'managed' democracy (a misnomer if ever there was one). Elections are fixed to ensure the right outcome by manipulation, intimidation, outright blackmail or the disqualification of opposition candidates who could prove to be a nuisance. Elections alone do not, repeat not, make a democracy and this government can shout itself hoarse day after day proclaiming its democratic stance, but we all know that in reality what we now suffer is the outcome of a quirk of fate which has little to do with the practice of democratic norms. Yes, the people did arise, or some of them did, mainly in the one province that lords it over all other provinces. In the matter of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and his 'restoration' there was much brouhaha but that was simply because the localised uprising of members of certain mixed classes was heavily financed and competently led. So, it can be done, providing the money is there, the leadership has clout, and the end result can be guaranteed as options run out. Obviously, the money, leadership clout and options did not gel in the case of the Taliban and the unrealistic panic created when they moved in, with government and army connivance, to Swat and Buner. It was only after the people who run this country, the American administrators, put their feet down firmly that the army, followed by the government, got their act together and the people were motivated to rally behind them. A consensus can be arrived at, as admitted by President Barack Obama's special envoy to Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, at a press briefing he held on June 10. "What I saw in Pakistan on this trip was the slow emergence of a consensus behind the government's actions," he told the gathered press people. "I spent time with Nawaz Sharif, a good deal of time, leader of the opposition, just after he had his political rights restored - a lot of time with President Zardari, time with General Kiyani and his top team, including General Pasha, the head of ISI, and with members of civic society. And everywhere, there was a dramatic change in attitudes from my previous trips because of the outrages of the Taliban and their supporters, and this was widely recognised." Missing was time spent with the 'elected' prime minister. Yousuf Raza Gilani was from the outset relegated to the back seat, in which he happily sits, and which fact is acknowledged by all. For Zardari, it was quite another matter. He wangled his way to the top by double-crossing Pervez Musharraf, allowed to do so by the Americans to whom he solemnly handed out a string of commitments. But he has turned out in more ways than one to be a clone of Musharraf, the latest copy-cat action being his attendance, as an observer, at the SCO summit which simply produced, as far as we are concerned, yet another photo-op high profile handshake. The onwards trip to Brussels to fraternise with the EU was equally wishy-washy and under-productive. But then, since the president does not go around in his own domain, no trips to Swat, Peshawar or even Lahore, he has to go somewhere, so that leaves the rest of the world. We are stuck. It has been said that as far as the US is concerned this country holds the key to what is known as the 'Muslim World' - an unrealistic semantic construction that suggests that the countries that supposedly make it up are bound together and driven by fanatical religious belief. In its heart of hearts, the US perceives Pakistan for what it is: a country beset by multiple conflicts produced by unaddressed social inequalities, a dysfunctional, even pathological, state. The writer is a freelance columnist