Charter of Democracy (COD) was perhaps the brain child of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s (ZAB) daughter Benazir Bhutto (BB). She signed the document with Nawaz Sharif in London on May 14, 2006. At that time both major political parties agreed on the restoration of civilian democratic rule ending the military government of General Pervez Musharraf.

As written the COD set important goals for the nation. Both parties decided to establish an independent accountability commission, neutral bureaucracy, rule of law, enforcement of merit, containment of corruption, devolution of power through local government and measures for austerity/simplicity. Except for working together no other goal has been pursued. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) ruled for five years (2008 – 201) and completed its term to hand over power to Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

Perhaps the assassination of BB was the turning point in politics. The party went into the control of Asif Zardari who shared an insatiable appetite for wealth with the Sharifs. During her earlier stints in power Zardari tried to convince his wife to focus on the money instead of ideology. He was quite impressed by the abilities of Nawaz to win through manipulated ballots and then build his empire right under the nose of the establishment with no sacrifice or struggle. Nawaz not only had a soft landing into politics but was also able to increase his financial worth manifold. He got into trouble when he decided to have it all. First he tried to encroach on the autonomy of the Khakis under Asif Janjua and then took on the Baboo-e-Azam and his mentor Baba Ishaq Khan the President.

There after instead of strengthening democracy the focus shifted on wealth and the document was modified to the charter of Money(COM). First it was Zardari’s turn at the centre and Sindh Province while Nawaz was awarded Punjab. Together they not only weakened the federation but also squandered the wealth and assets. However, it goes to Zardari’s credit that he created alliances of co-existence, its term in office and a new government was sworn in through the ballot which was again manipulated.

There are two very dark spots in the democratic struggle of Pakistan and we as the first generation of the country had to endure it. The rigging in the 1977 elections derailed democracy for decades and when we were on the path to recovery the same exercise was repeated in 2013 ballot. After COD and a massive movement to oust the fourth Khaki dictator it was widely expected that the electoral process will advance the democratic order but instead it retarded it.

Zardari’s PPP was able to complete its term as everyone was making money including the Khakhi’s Baboos and Qazis. Some of the scandals are now coming to light. When the power broken of Islamabad changed, it was expected that grand alliance of co-existence would continue. General Kiani was replaced by General Raheel Sharif as Chief of Army Staff (COAS). As the PM Mian sahib was back to his old tricks. With absolute majority in the parliament he became over confidant. Kaptaan kept on with his protesting about the rigging in the elections but it fell on deaf ears. Then armed Pervez Musharraf, it provided Mian sahib an opportunity to glory and revenge. A tribunal was set up for his trial under article-6 of the constitution. Once again the Khakis and the N-Leaguers stood face to face.

Kaptaan’s long march and dharna changed politics forever. With a manipulated mandate on one can survive at the helm, as real power is derived from the masses. Nawaz Sharif was expecting a subservient COAS appointed by him. The Supreme Court under Iftikhar Chaudhry was already in his corner and Punjab Babboos were in his pocket. By not agreeing to probe for electoral irregularities in only our constituencies exposed Mian sahib mandate. The Khakis under Raheel Sharif decided to break loose from COM and opted for cleansing in the domain of terrorism and politics, it changed the power dynamics in the country.

Karachi is the commercial capital of Pakistan and home to the Zardari clan while Lahore is the base of the Sharifs. Now that Zarb-e-Azab is hitting the corrupt elements in the port city tremors are being felt all over. In the spirit of COM Zardari is demanding support from Mian sahib as they have been partners in crime under the garb of COD that they jointly signed. Democracy was perhaps Benazir’s vision not the others who jointly signed. The others who then benefitted from it on the principle of ‘make hay while the sun shines’.

Converting COD into COM was a big disservice to the nation. Individuals who built personal empires under the cover of democracy can no longer escape accountability. It is true that an honest ballot is in itself a cleansing mechanism that is why ten elections have been manipulated to avoid it. Making money was never a declared goal of the charter. It is time to revisit the focus areas indentified in the document as a tribute to its initiator who was slain while upholding democracy. Benazir Income Support Fund (BISP) is not enough to recognise her service to the cause for the democratic order, strict adherence to COD will surely be a lasting tribute to her struggle and sacrifice.