Several seemingly unconnected developments last week raised questions about the scary reality of democracy in Pakistan. The 20th Amendment was passed by the Senate, but only after the Senators got their respective pounds of flesh in terms of development funds, and benefits and privileges to see them through after they complete their tenures were showered upon them. Unmoved by the deteriorating situation in Balochistan for years, the PPP-led government was apparently shaken up by a bill in the US Congress seeking independence for Pakistan's largest province, but its obviously insincere initiatives proved to be complete non-starters. Pakistan repaid $417 million to the International Monetary Fund from foreign currency reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan. What is going on in the noble name of democracy? At the end of the day, whose interests do our so-called representatives serve?

Let's start with the case of Balochistan. Every member of the Provincial Assembly there is a minister. This basically means that people inhabiting every inch of Balochistan are represented in the Balochistan government. These MPA-ministers have the power, the influence and the voice to address and articulate the concerns and the interests of their constituents within the democratic structure. They get funds for the development of their constituencies and they can legislate to improve how they govern their province. They have been in positions of power for four years. Like the government at the centre, the Balochistan government is led by the PPP. Surely, with the support of MNAs and Senators from the province, these elected representatives should have the capacity to put together a strategy to move their province in the right direction. Why have these representatives failed so miserably in stemming the tide of lawlessness and instability that has actually worsened under their watch?

Whatever the causes of unrest, whether it is foreign interference or military operations, it is the responsibility of the elected representatives from Balochistan to come up with a common perspective on the crisis in Balochistan and to create some roadmap for setting things right for the people they claim to represent. But there is none of that. What do they think they have been sent to the Assembly for? To watch out for their personal interests and to juggle ministries? Are they only interested in enjoying the perks and privileges, legal and illegal, that come with elected offices? With a few exceptions, why have they chosen to remain silent about the mess that the federal government is creating in the province in the garb of setting it right? Is their sense of duty to their constituents obscured by compromises that might not solve the problems that people of Balochistan face, but guarantee the advantage that comes with being on the right side of power?

The blame for setting the tone of this farcical democracy must rest with the Zardari-led PPP and its so-called policy of reconciliation. Spelt simply, this policy of reconciliation, that is bereft of any democratic principles, is another name for promoting opportunism of the worst kind. Give something to every legislator and party, and make them turn a blind eye to the perverse party of misgovernance underway in the corridors of power. Good enough, if they agree to not rocking the boat. Better still, if they are ready to join the ongoing party. This has been a consistent strategy on part of the Zardari-led dispensation and the recent happenings in the Senate around the passage of the 20th Amendment was its latest episode. In the name of democracy, it has created a club of elected aristocrats with little or no concern for their democratic responsibilities to their constituents. What do they think they have been sent to the Assemblies for?

With every passing day, as the elected representatives party at our expense and promote their petty personal and partisan agendas as if it was their sole purpose of being in the Assemblies, the challenges confronting the polity multiply and become even more intractable. The legislators, ministers and governments become puppets in the hands of a technically powerless puppeteer in the presidency, who has mastered the art of pulling their strings, exploiting their weaknesses and bringing out the worst in all of them. The conscientious objectors within the PPP are ignored and sidelined for the benefit of trusted co-conspirators, whether it is Dr Zulfiqar Mirza who broke the silence on Karachi or senior PPP leaders from Balochistan who also see Rehman Malik as a shady point man.

His conviction by the courts pardoned by the President, the Interior Minster continues to play his part in messing up further already messy situations. He was not able to answer the charges levelled against him by Dr Zulfiqar Mirza regarding his role in Karachi, and he is been accused of creating hurdles in the way of rapprochement in Balochistan by senior PPP leaders from the province. He has created further confusion recently due to his irresponsible statements regarding the quashing of cases against Baloch nationalist leaders, who say that they are not willing to trust him. Yet, he remains the government's point man on Balochistan. Can we even hope for things getting any better in the province with the tainted Interior Minister in charge? By refusing to replace him with a credible team of negotiators, it is clear that the government is not interested in sorting out the mess. Worse still, in line with the agenda of its master, it seems that the government would like things to get worse.

Meanwhile, the government continues to outsource its economic policy to the IMF bent upon squeezing the last drops of blood from the poorest section of the country's population. The democratic government is eager to disregard public outrage and open up the Nato supply routes. The scary reality of Pakistan's democracy is that it has nothing to do with public interest or popular opinion. The Zardari-led dispensation can shout about their faith in democracy and make loud claims about caring for the people, it can pretend that it is concerned about the issues that affect the lives and livelihood of those it represents, but these claims ring hollow for the people of Pakistan. As they say, actions speak louder than words.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: hazirjalees@hotmail.com