Peshawar woke us up last week. This time, tears of love for the lives lost would not suffice. The nation seems to have put its foot down and so have the armed forces of Pakistan. The only one out of step with this national resolve against the terrorists is the pampered brat of democracy.

This was bound to be. The stunted six-year old sapling of democracy has failed to sprout any new leaves even when it comes to basic tasks of governance. In fact, the rot generated by our political leaders has gotten worse, with serious real-time consequences for the public. This over-protected sapling that refuses to growis unlikely to bear any fruit in this time of war.

Conversely, our democracy project is proving to be a big drag on the initiative against terrorists. It is a pampered over-weight six-year old that our soldiers must carry in their arms as they fight to protect our lives from violent soulless monsters. He would be the first casualty if he refuses to walk but our democracy brat doesn’t seem to care.

Despite the loud pronouncements against terrorists by political players of every hue, it seems to be just another day at the democracy circus. Acrobats, jugglers, magicians and clowns continue their routine, with some additional sound and fury thrown in. Their rhetoric cannot hide their inaction and lack of vision. It has been a week and they are yet to act in any meaningful way.

The government is once again shy of exercising its executive authority and taking urgent measures. Unwilling to shoulder its responsibility, it is hiding behind its favorite excuse of evolving national consensus through committees and joint sessions of the parliament. We have been on that road many times and know how, after expending a lot of hot air, it all ends in an impotent whimper.

How long must we go around in circles? Do we really need another committee to find out what needs to be done? Why can’t the government start acting on the recommendations agreed upon earlier by the same leaders; cracking down on banned outfits, monitoring the madrassas, acting against hate speech and literature, enacting tougher anti-terrorism laws, speedy prosecution of arrested terrorists, improving the performance of police and coordination among intelligence agencies. It’s not surprising that the new committee has come up with the same old steps that have been recommended before but were never acted upon. When will we see the government act?

One example that illustrates the government’s non-serious attitude towards countering terrorists is the progress made on establishing the National Counter Terrorism Authority that was emphasized more than a year ago after long deliberations in the same parliament. Despite the parliamentary consensus, it is yet to be made operational. Not long ago, the Interior Minister told us rather flippantly that it could not be made operational because the government did not have the money to do it. It’s hard to believe that he could actually say that with a straight face.

After all, the money needed to make NACTA operational is not even a fraction of what the government has already spent on just one of its hare-brained projects. The Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro-bus is a shameless mockery of every rule of urban planning and it has transformed Islamabad from being one of the most beautiful capitals of the world to just another dysfunctional and polluted third world city, that too at an astronomical cost.

Surely, more than a lack of finances, it is the lack of political will on part of the government to take the bull of terrorism by its horns that has impeded the process of making NACTA functional. Even now, instead of moving on it without delay and implementing other recommendations of the parliament as reflected in its anti-terrorism policy announced with much fanfare, the government has announced yet another consultative process.

The only institution alive to the urgency of the situation is the Pakistan military. It is fighting on the ground, sacrificing lives and limbs. It has prodded the government to get its act together and take the few timid steps that it has. The new suggestions to counter terrorism, like hanging the convicted terrorists and establishment of military courts to try them, have also come from the security establishment. It is General Raheel Sharif who is seen taking concrete steps to do something about the dangerous situation while our political leaders take their sweet time, going through the motions of deliberating once again on decided matters.

Rather than helping the security agencies counter terrorists, the democracy show is helping the terrorists by enacting the noisy environment of a circus tent all over the country, an environment within which the terrorists could have a field day. By not acting against the terrorists and their supporters in our midst, by dithering and beating about the bush, the political leaders infesting the parliament are actually protecting and abetting the terrorists, giving them time to multiply their menace.

While the armed forces have succeeded in physically countering the terrorists, the political players have failed miserably in doing their part. The governments run by various political parties have done nothing to nab the supporters of terrorists who are scattered through our cities or to curb their activities. Those posing as our leaders are yet to come up with a counter-narrative that exposes the militant mercenaries for who they are. Even now, they are like a lazy clueless donkey that needs the reins to give it direction and the crack of a whip for it to move.

The worst part is that the reins of this donkey are in multiple hands, and so are the whips that make it move. Worst still, some of them are held by those waging a war against us through militant mercenaries. The danger is that just when we need this donkey to use all its power to push one way, it could just start pulling in the opposite direction. Can we trust it to pull our cart?

More importantly: Can we carry the burden of our democracy circus without undermining our ability to win this war?

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at hazirjalees@hotmail.com