How can anyone expect even a modicum of law and order in a country which is, and has been for too long, dominated by men to whom law and order are meaningless and whose past and present deeds and reputations in the main negate that which is considered to be legal or above board? They preside over a system beset by dishonesty, nepotism and deliberate untruths, and it is evident that the befooling of the nation is done willfully and deliberately. As they deceive themselves, so deceiving others comes quite naturally and easily to them - and in any case it is an acknowledged fact that the telling of untruths is historically and internationally an accepted part of politics. One excuse could be that politicians, after all, are only human, and humans lie all the time, harmlessly and ritualistically. But we have the mutual dislike of the leadership of the two main parties (with vain attempts at disguise accompanied by hypocritical niceties) which has produced an overheated political atmosphere, coarse, undignified and a discredit to democracy. The present triumvirate which is ultimately responsible for law and order, the president, prime minister and interior minister, together with the minions who form the federal Cabinet and the provincial cabinets, act only in their own interest - the prime example being the last budget of which they are the main beneficiaries, the people having been fleeced. Their interest in the offices they hold is short-term and entirely related to themselves - the object of the exercise of getting elected into power being to make as much hay as possible whilst the political sun shines upon them. The state of the nation insofar as law and order is concerned was amply evidenced last week when Sindh, Punjab and the NWFP were rocked by riots provoked by the absence of electricity in the major cities of the country. A latent streak of violence emerges at the slightest excuse, and it is a reflection of the incompetence and corruption that is glaringly exhibited by the top layers of society - whether it be a civilian or military government has never made a whit of difference. The rioting public sees little wrong in wrecking their fellow citizens' property, or in causing mayhem, distressing others who suffer equally from the state of deprivation. They follow the national trend set from top to bottom of trashing any semblance of law and order. The senseless burning of tyers is relatively harmless when compared to the destruction of the concerned electric corporation's offices and trucks and physical attacks upon its employees - but it all gets no one anywhere. The wrath and ire should be directed at those responsible, preferably via the ballot box. Perhaps one day the people of Pakistan will refuse to be duped and duped again and again and have the gumption for a change to vote out the rot. Masochism, feudalism and bullyboy tactics have brought them to where they now are. With the unstoppable rumour-mongering which encompasses mid-term elections, hopefully when the next elections come around, mid- or full-term, some sense will have dawned in the collective electorate mind. In the case of Karachi, it is well known that the KESC has been handed over to relatives and cronies who have little long-term interest. The electric supply corporations of other cities of the country undoubtedly mirror the government - corrupt, incompetent, and incapable of governance, as it has been for as long as we can remember, come democrat or dictator. No examples have ever been set for the people to follow, other than a blatant display of self above all. Hand in hand with the fast deteriorating electric power supply situation we have the media trend-setters ringing the usual alarm bells about the impending downfall of the president of the Republic due to the fact that his prime minister is apparently branching out on his own, and with his followers breaking party ranks. Both men are eminently qualified for the positions they hold having done the politically prescribed stretches in prison. But Asif Ali Zardari is a great survivor and somehow, through fate or manipulation, has managed time and again when down and out to bounce back. Presidents come and go, but as has been seen those holding a dual role eventually find they cannot hold on to both. Apart from the fact that democratically and constitutionally it is odd that a political party chairman should be installed as head of state, it is also unseemly, as the presidency in this case has been converted into a party headquarters in which presumably party politics take preference over national politics. Be that as it may, if Zardari does succumb there is no guarantee that Yousuf Raza Gilani will survive without him. The alternative is far from reassuring - the Mian of Punjab biding his time in the wings. People say he has learnt a lot from his spell in jail and then in exile, but old habits die-hard. He has proven to be reckless, his attempt to install himself as amir-ul-momineen being one instance and the other his seriously flawed action of October 12 1999. From the latter, he has just been exonerated, thanks to his valiant rallying for the lawyer's movement and thanks to the judiciary's newfound search for independence and credibility. The writer is a freelance columnist