Five years ago, the nation was introduced to the weird concept of ‘revenge of democracy’. Five years later, the results are now in. Rift and drift have been the revenge of democracy.

Some wait expectantly for elections to be an instrument of change in Pakistan. Once again, there is a wait for things to happen. Precedent suggests that elections may not be the remedy they are touted to be. The 1970 elections precipitated the vivisection of Pakistan. The outcome sharpened the pre-existing factionalism.

Elections sometimes serve as a tool to legitimise a tainted status quo, where the focus is fixed on furthering family, finance, and friends. Through the ballot box, the same faces pop up under a different label. Only the label is changed. So there is a continuance of more of the same.

Elections are overrated as engines of change. But elections can be the pacifying injection of sedation. To cite former US President Teddy Roosevelt, from his 1899 speech at Chicago: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Embedded in the existing polity is a moral disconnect: those who are saluted publicly are held in disdain privately. Whatever be its rationale, it makes an art form out of hypocrisy. The mufti-khaki-political class hierarchy does not have the stature and calibre of yore. This is to the detriment of the nation. The status quo of the ruling structure remains adaptive, like a chameleon, and tenacious, despite its lack of good intent and public reach. It has tons of money and the patronage to pitch false claims and to facilitate the switching of allegiances to keep up the pretence of democracy.

Stepping into the moral vacuum, and encashing it, are nefarious elements. The temptation is strong to go with the flow of the herd - to become one of them - and simply follow what is expedient and convenient. The martyrs - if they took a look at the ‘leadership’ of today - would be rolling in their graves. They certainly would not have been elected today.

Those without self-respect cannot give respectability to the nation. On display is the intoxication with the pomp of power. These then are the ‘moderates’, who were installed to supposedly ‘foil’ militancy. Instead, their misrule has added ‘fuel’ to the fire.

Thus are the doings of the elders. Their juniors - riding the high horse of derivative power - can be even worse.

Some of the evils and attitudes infesting state and society are reminiscent of pre-Islamic jahiliya. The apathy and, in effect, complicity of otherwise decent folks have contributed to pupils being shot and schools bombed for pursuing the sacred Islamic farz of seeking knowledge.

There is one recurring rule in Pakistan polity: rulers are not renowned for making a graceful exit. An exception to this rule is unlikely in 2013.

To quell and contain the rift and the drift requires more than just casting a vote. It requires a drastic rethink.

The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar. Email: