Politics can be suppressed and shamed; yet it always finds a way-out. Political parties are trying to break the present political deadlock, created by Imran Khan (IK) and Tahirul Qadri (TQ), and we are waiting to see which way the wind blows. Both IK and TQ were together in 2002 in General Musharraf’s band-wagon, alongwith the Q League. Now the same bandwagon, including Sheikh Rashid, Ahmed Raza Kasuri and others, stands at the doorstep of the parliament, wanting it to be dismissed. The Pakistani nation initially felt amused with their movement for freedom through revolution, but now it’s getting wary, wondering what lies ahead. Whether the Army stands at the centre stage to arbitrate, in whose favour, no one knows. Both IK and TQ are adamant that, Nawaz Sharif must go and an interim government be formed to set up the stage for the general elections, whilst a new government is formed headed by Imran himself, as declared by himself. Is there even a doubt in anybody’s mind that behind this façade it is former President, General Musharraf, backed by foreign hands that have their own axe to grind?

Both IK and TQ are adamant in their demands and are not prepared for anything less than the Prime Minister’s resignation, dissolution of the assemblies and formation of a caretaker government. The factors causing the deadlock are such that they cannot be easily unlocked. The PM cannot resign because the government and the opposition all support him. If he does resign under pressure, that would set an unconstitutional precedence of leaving democracy at the mercy of street-mobs. On the other hand if Imran Khan backs out, that would mean political suicide for him. He has already done enough damage to himself, by his unruly politics of agitation. As far as Qadri is concerned, he is a political non-entity, amenable to comprise. He may well return to Canada, satisfied to please his masters that he has done his job well, by turning Pakistan’s democracy into a mobocracy.

That is, the kind of mobocracy if left unchecked checked would tarnish the image of Pakistan, destabilize the government and weaken the resolve of the Armed Forces who are already facing diverse challenges. An immediate corrective measure is needed to decide the issue and cannot be done without the army managing the situation. The Army is wrongly deployed; guarding buildings is not their job. Once the decision is made, clear-cut orders must be given to the Army: “Clear Islamabad of all protestors and mischief mongers, restore law and order, and send both Imran and Qadri packing home.”A caretaker government thus could break the deadlock and create space for politics, to operate and correct the course of democracy.

The political leadership must also accept the reality that IK and TQ jingoism has established the need to take seriously the matter of rigging in the elections 2013. A major change in the political system of governance has to happen and that can only come from ensuring fair and free elections. The parliament therefore must rise to the occasion, to take the difficult decision of forming the caretaker government, with the following tasks to attend to:

n     Restore law and order and bring         political stability in the country.

n     Streamline electoral procedures,         rules and appoint an independent     Election Commissioner.

n     Hold census, as soon as possible.

n     Appoint a retired justice as head

    of the Supreme Judicial Council,         to ensure an independent judiciary.

n     Hold local bodies’ elections.

n     Hold general elections and hand         over power to the party winning         maximum seats.

n     The above tasks must be

    completed within nine months         time, including the elections.

The Army should be tasked to support and assist the caretaker government, to perform and accomplish the mission within the stipulated time-frame. The army’s role at this juncture is extremely essential and important, as it stands at the centre stage of the political quagmire, created by the so called politicians and revolutionaries, who want to create a ‘New Pakistan’, whereas they themselves are a problem of the old Pakistan. Only through these means, i.e., using the instruments of state power, both political and military, a level playing field can be provided to all the stake-holders, establishing an exemplary civil-military working relationship.

These are very difficult decisions our parliament has to take to protect itself from the simmering cauldron that will boil over on the question of rigging. If the decision is delayed, a climate of uncertainty will prevail, providing space to other elements to intervene and upset the plan of reconciliation, which is now possible. That is, possible by taking decisions in time, as not to be overtaken by the events. It is necessary therefore that the present position of strength is maintained by the government to implement the plan of political rehabilitation and stability.

 The writer is a former chief of army staff.