SHIREEN M MAZARI With bomb blasts widening their target circle - the latest one targeting the Press Club in Peshawar - and the Balochistan package still inoperable leading to increasing frustration amongst the Baloch people as well as anger over the threatened US drone attacks, the people of Pakistan would have thought the government would be devising suitable strategies to deal with the growing multilevel threats. But that seems to be expecting too much from the rulers, who are busy in a new aggressiveness targeting all who dare to disagree with them and critique them. It is a bizarre scenario where children of ministers are issuing blatant threats to journalists and the government is expending much energy on identifying hostile journalists and then labelling all sorts of accusations. Intolerance is growing all around us, as democracy seems to have come to mean simply 'no criticism'. There seems to be some confusion within the ranks of the main opposition over the fact that stabilising democracy means stabilising the institutions of democracy like the Parliament and the judiciary; it certainly does not mean propping up or bolstering a corrupt and inept government - as they appear to think. That is why they continue to blow hot and cold - seemingly unsure of how far to go in playing the oppositional role required in a substantive democratic system so that the government is held accountable for its deeds. However, accountability has never been a kosher word with the rulers of this country, except when they are out of power. Right now though a very dangerous game is being played at the expense of state institutions, the rule of law and justice. The NRO may have been firmly struck down by the Supreme Court but in its aftermath its follow up decisions are effectively being ignored. So the message going out to the masses is that the law can be defied if you happen to be wielding power. It is a sorry sight to see the judiciary being dragged into a confrontation with the executive - all to protect the corrupt, the murderers and other tainted elite - both military and political. The worst is that the decision of the Supreme Court is effectively being ignored. What does it say of a government when its head deliberately appoints a man as law minister while a case of alleged bribery has yet to be resolved? If this is not a defiant slap in the face of the law, what is? Now the whole brigade of supporters of the NRO as well as its beneficiaries have begun a smear campaign against the superior judiciary while declaring their intent of remaining in power regardless of the reopened cases of corruption, murder and other such crimes. Where else but in Pakistan would a bunch of alleged wrongdoers hold on to power despite being exposed; and be brazen and unrepentant about it all? If the rulers today defy the highest court of the country, the floodgates of injustice and law of the jungle will prevail. Already, even children of holders of power are sending out death threats to journalists in an environment where terrorism is already rampant. And, at the end of the day, for all the talk of a strong and independent judiciary, unless it is able to implement its decisions, it does little to restore the common man's faith in getting justice. But it is the state apparatus that has to ensure implementation and therein lies the rub - for here we have a case of implementers having to act against themselves to ensure justice. That they have made abundantly clear they are not prepared to do. So what happens now? And what trends will be set for the future? Nor is it just the NRO issue and the subsequent shameless defiance by the rulers that is reflective of the ongoing circus that the state has become in Pakistan. Look at the situation in terms of security. The Baloch political problems have solutions based on a remarkable national consensus. Yet no movement has taken place to begin the political healing with the dissidents at home and abroad. Instead, the Baloch are now faced with the threat of US drone attacks and all that their country's leadership can tell them is that they have made it known to the US their concern and reservations over these drone attacks on Pakistani territory. The problem here is that the US still continues to maintain that all the drone attacks are carried out with the consent of the Pakistan government, including the military. So our leadership does not have the courage to tell its people the truth - because it knows only too well that what it is doing is wrong and disastrous for the country in the long run. Meanwhile, what Musharraf started in terms of giving unfettered access to the US in Pakistan has been expanded by the present democratic rulers to the extent that US citizens are arrogantly defying all laws of the country - a sort of "in your face" attitude. If any Pakistani state employee dares to 'inflict' the law of the land on an American, our very own Interior Ministry makes his life hell for doing his duty So while the Americans are seeking a quick exit out of this region, we are getting further entangled militarily in FATA and are seeing a two-front external threat with India, aided and abetted by the US, giving sustenance to terrorism and militancy in the tribal belt and beyond in Pakistan. At the same time, terrorism continues to expand across the country, with no comprehensive strategy by the state to deal with the issue. But then, there seem to be no strategies for anything - beyond the expansion of the "friends of the rulers" network putting their hand in every national till. As for the ordinary citizenry, they are being kept too busy eking out an existence to focus too much on the state circus that is slowly destroying this land. Perhaps there is a pattern to the gas shortages which in turn keep the poor man's transport off the roads, the rising power prices, food scarcity and so on. Struggling to survive dissipates energy away from dealing with the destruction of the country at the macro level. But this energy can be regenerated if a new anger arises in the face of increasing miseries. Meanwhile, there is one free show for all to watch: We may not have a traditional circus where our children can hold their breath in awe as they see impossible acrobatic tricks, near-suicidal trapeze acts and animal trainers; but we do have a state circus where impossible and dastardly feats are being performed every day, as the nation gapes horror-struck. And the safety net is disappearing fast.