The spring of content has set in. The Senate elections sailed through like a breeze by the courtesy of a friendly ‘reconciliation’ policy, commonly known as muc muca - the happiest buzzword for politicians that are in the game with a slice of the action and a menace for those sitting outside the field making noises like a deprived child. All was fair and square for those who were declared elected unopposed under the patronage of the big bosses and also for those who could part with tons of money without blinking an eyelid to reach the upper house. One poor soul by the name of Aslam Gill, who was ditched by a few of his own, was instantly compensated with a consolation prize of an advisor to the benevolent Prime Minister. The defiant ones got away with a slight slap on the wrist. Everyone is happy in the fairyland!
The PPP is brimming with confidence having accomplished this mission, which seemed a bit like a mirage not so long ago. The reins of the government are firmly back in its hands. No one could dare confront its nominees for the two coveted chairs of the upper house. The balance term of office that can be in excess of one year to the general elections promises to be relatively comfortable during which the remaining wishes of those at the helm could be fulfilled.
Here in Punjab, the festivities of the spring have returned after several years of turbulence and looming dangers of all kinds. The Sri Lankan cricket team was invaded in broad daylight by well positioned gunmen, who simply walked away after a sustained gun battle. Nearly all legendry impregnable security establishments came under attack of determined suicide bombers during the last few years that inflicted significant loss of lives and government property, not to speak of a serious dent in the myth of their infallibility. Like most other departments in the present government, they too will be hard pressed to claim any laurels to their credit. No one of note has ever been prosecuted and punished, although a few are apprehended for the record to vanish and never to be heard of again.
Nevertheless, the air is finally free from the foul smells of suicide attacks in most areas of the country barring the troubled regions. (Daylight robberies, kidnapping and murders are the lesser evils that seem not to count and just make the routine news, good for a quick spot on the networks.) Youth and families came out in large numbers to participate in the marathons organised in Lahore. Public meetings were held to celebrate the International Women’s Day. A cycle race was organised, which was enthusiastically contested by the fun-starved young and old. Political public meetings in open grounds have reappeared that are drawing unprecedented crowds of thousands in all provinces (except the troubled Balochistan) without any undue concerns of safety. The Prime Minister is no more afraid to expose himself to address his constituents. The Mayor of Istanbul was welcomed in Lahore with great fanfare and travelled safely on the roads. Development works are being inaugurated by politicians in authority. Our country is, slowly but surely, moving towards a normal existence.
And so is politics. Realignments are in the offing. The veteran politicians, who have mastered the art of backing the winning horse, are changing loyalties like changing a shirt in anticipation of the general elections. Their eloquence remains thunderous, promising the moon that everyone knows they cannot deliver, and catchy pet phrases that they do not mean. Yet, the gullible public gets swayed. The rising wave of the emerging third force of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) appears to be subsiding. The PML-N staged a gathering of its workers to elect the President of Punjab. Lo and behold, there was only one candidate - Mr Shahbaz Sharif. Perhaps, others saw the futility in extending their candidature. Chairman Mian Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law heading the male and female youth wing, a close relative as opposition leader in the Senate and Hamza Shahbaz lurking in the wings preparing for the opportunity to inherit command completes the limited company. Look around other political parties and a similar pattern is seen – MQM being the exception in this and a few other ways. When will the people learn to resist the dynastic hierarchy that prevents the latent talent to surface and be groomed for alternative leadership?
Our politics has always revolved around personalities. The missing links are the ideologies, nationalism and convictions of the early years that were for causes above individuals. Absolute and blind loyalty to the individual has now become the criteria to ascend and maintain a position in the party ranks. All power is concentrated in the party leader, who uses it at his or her discretion for reward and punishment. Even our Prime Minister with all executive powers (and by inference the entire responsibility, duty and oath to uphold the laws of the state) is willing to defy the Supreme Court of Pakistan and go to jail than to be disloyal to the party leader. Isn’t Pakistan supposed to come first?
Such weaknesses in a democratic system that has not been allowed to flourish are not unexpected. We are yet once again undergoing a transition to democracy from army rule. For the last 11 years, we have been the reluctant (or greedy) partners in the crime of waging a senseless war that has been rejected by a majority of our people. Some of our people took to armed resistance that had a devastating impact on our daily lives, our economy, our national image overseas and our social fibre. However, like all other wars, the end of this war is also beginning. Peace and progress are bound to follow and bitterness will give way to harmony in due course. These transitions will be more complex and multi-dimensional than waging a war.
That the government is destined to complete its full term is a testimony of the coming of age of our major political parties. Recriminations and confrontations are a norm, rather than an exception in a democracy though indecency and foul language are not. The rough edges reflect the general deterioration in the social order that will be chiselled with time through a process of evolution and not by revolution.
Likewise, the struggle of the media to contain the newfound unprecedented freedom will succeed due to its determination to self-regulate without limiting its capacity to inform, educate and lead the people. Peace will bring its dividends and soon our free fall will reverse into a climb. There is no other way, except to go up!

n    The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.