Jalees Hazir In a refreshing departure from the routine, instead of half-democratic nominated representatives of political parties, leaders from the civil society were invited to a television talk show to share their perspectives on the situation in the country. Their vision was inspiring and their dedication admirable, things that are not rare outside the evil-infested power corridors of the rotten system that we are not supposed to question. How long must we wait for the real leaders of Pakistan to replace the stooges of established interests that continue to turn our gold to dust? And more importantly, must we sit around for this crucial change to take place? Tired of hearing about the conspiracies of the establishment from the President, Prime Minister and other mouthpieces of the government, a friend recently suggested that to move ahead it was absolutely essential to dissect the notion and try to understand what the establishment comprises. Is it okay to lump together the institution of the army and give it that name? What about the bulk of civil servants whose grades keep rising under changing governments and unchanging anti-people policies? What about political families who keep surfacing in every set-up, propped up by their 'illustrious fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers? What about the landed aristocracy and business tycoons who keep getting richer as life gets harder for those who till their land and work their machines? What about the so-called religious leadership that has continued to strengthen their monopoly on God, enjoying courtship with all other power players as they fashion a society that militates against the weak? Are they not all life-members of a power club that refuses to see beyond its dirty nose? The stooges of established interests are well-entrenched; they have been sheltered under the wings of military dictators and promoted behind the facade of democracy. Time and again, they tout a change for the better from ideological and popular pulpits, only to deliver a cruel continuation of an oppressive system. The version of the system in place these days is categorised as democratic, but it continues to be dominated by the same old power-hungry elite and promotes the interests of this small minority at the expense of the nation. The idea is not to dislodge this power club through a bloody revolution or a military takeover, scenarios that are unlikely to change anything as they are likely to be headed and directed by members of the same club. The idea is to revisit the discourse on democracy and to push the system in a direction that is genuinely representative and accountable. But to do that, we need a new leadership. Naturally, it is not in the interest of the existing political players to push in a direction that diminishes their control over the system and restrains them to conduct themselves within the ambit of law. The established political elite has found its comfort with other power players, and as long as it keeps getting its piece of the Pakistan pie, it is willing to play along the system-game without bringing about any meaningful change. Otherwise, how could parties that profess to be democratic collude to strike down a constitutional clause making it mandatory for them to hold elections within their parties? As they create dramatic scenes in Parliament and sling mud on each other, why is it so difficult for them to make any headway on debating and enacting laws and policies that could actually benefit those they claim to represent? Why does sharing power boil down to hogging ministries and official positions? It is important to focus on this particular segment of the establishment, the political parties, as they are supposed to represent the people and bring about the much-needed change. The army and the bureaucracy are supposed to be answerable to the governments they form, and it is their responsibility to exercise control over the non-representative institutions of the state. The weak excuses about the invisible government crippling the capacity of democratic governments to deliver, as advanced from time to time, hold no water. After all, if it cannot exercise the power given to it by the people, why in the world would a democratic government continue in office? It is the job of political parties to provide a vision and change things, and given the lack of capacity on part of the existing political parties to do any such thing, it is this vacuum that needs to be filled. It is heartening to see that an alternative leadership has already emerged. These promising individuals are visible in what is labelled as the civil society. They have a passion for improving the lives of those around them and are willing to spend their time, effort and resources to that end. They are professionally accomplished and have a track record of working for public welfare. They have a vision and are articulate. They believe in the rule of law and understand the essence of democracy better than all those championing its cause from the platform of all shades of political parties. They are tolerant and listen to others. And as it came out from the discussion on the television talk show that had taken the positive step of giving them airtime for a change, they are thinking in the right direction. There is only one problem with these new leaders though. They are waiting for their ideas to make inroads into the closed minds of the leadership of existing political parties or hoping for a new political leadership to emerge in order to translate their ideas into popular support. They dont realise that they dont have to go far to see the leadership they are pining for. They only need to look into the mirror. It is important to catalyse this shift in the nature of political leadership. To begin with, the civil society leaders must understand their responsibility and join hands to articulate a political agenda based on their shared ideas. The media needs to seat them beside the existing political leadership, and include them in their talk shows; the shouting matches between politicians have outlived their dramatic appeal and need the much needed change of tone and a diversity of perspectives. And of course, all those interested in a democratic order must push for electoral reforms that, beside other things, lead to the creation of authentic voters lists and curb the influence of money and violence in contesting and winning elections. The writer is a freelance columnist.