Khurshid Aktar Khan The Kerry-Lugar fiasco has further widened the gulf that separates our rulers from the people. All four major political parties comprising the ruling coalition have been duly elected through the popular vote and each has roots among the masses. At least three of them have relentlessly locked horns with military dictators over a period exceeding three decades struggling to restore democracy. All the four have bravely made sacrifices and endured severe personal hardships at one time or the other. Yet these people's representatives become remote and disconnected from their electorate as soon as they assume power. Perhaps the absolute and unaccountable power derived from one man authoritarian rule appeals to the demeanour of our elected rulers more than the vagaries of democracy. Regardless, democracy is already manifesting itself quite unambiguously despite the country being under siege of suicide attacks; the army and air force engaged in battles against militants and detractors making prophecies of doom and gloom. The trend was set when the government surrendered to public and media pressure and reinstated the deposed CJ through an executive order in complete reversal of its earlier stated policy and public declarations. All power brokers, including the army chief, gathered to assess the repercussions of allowing the Long March to continue towards Islamabad and to jointly deliberate the available options. Eventually the lawyers' movement reached its climax as their demands were accepted by the presidency late in the evening. The crowds peacefully dispersed instantly and the nation celebrated a victory for the process of democratic governance. The armed forces launched an armed assault, to clear the Swat and Malakand of armed militants, only after a favourable public opinion and unanimity among all political parties had been reached. The joint army and air force operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan was undertaken only after taking all stakeholders on board. The government was forced to review its position of granting a blanket approval to the bill and hailing it as the best thing that happened to Pakistan, when confronted by severe apprehensions to certain provisions expressed by the public, opposition parties, army high command and the media. The foreign minister was dispatched to Washington under public pressure in an emergent last minute effort to dilute the humiliation of the abhorrent clauses. Many public figures have been made to resign when found involved in anti-social behaviour. Political survival is not at the discretion of one man now but is subject to the will of the people. It is the duty of the members of the opposition parties in the assemblies to keep the government of the day on the defensive by raising and debating issues of public interest on the floor of the house, presenting opposing points of view and by mobilising public opinion in personal contacts and through rallies. Moreover, the media acts as a catalyst in creating awareness and bringing the issues to the attention of the public through discussions. Policies formulated with such combined efforts and critical appraisals are more likely to reflect the approval of a majority of the people. A consensus in democracy is least desirable and hard to achieve except in matters of grave national security. That is the way parliamentary democracy works. However, the incumbent government has unfortunately been trying to create an imaginary faade of rule by consensus, under the slogan of national unity and the opposition so far seems willing to comply by exercising restraint in presenting the opposing point of view. As a consequence of muted opposition, the peoples' government has repeatedly misjudged the mood of its constituency and failed to anticipate the adverse public reaction to certain unilaterally adopted policies leading to embarrassment and belated resorts to damage control. The government thus appears as rudderless floating with the tide, lacking control over the events or a clear direction in which to guide the destiny of the nation. The leadership is paying the price of its follies by a fall in popularity rating. Further, doubts are being cast on the competence of its team and even on the loyalty of some of its key members who retain their assets, business interests and families overseas with no apparent connect with the country that they are chosen and are being paid to serve. Many in the ruling leadership are struggling to shed the baggage of the past and to emerge from the shadows of the clandestine deals that brought them into power. These are extra ordinary times in which the country confronts an existential threat from the insurgencies and the militants within the country, the hostile Indians lurking on our borders and consolidating influence and space for themselves in the bordering Afghanistan. We have reason to be wary of the Americans that have entered into a strategic and nuclear partnership with India as their regional ally that has to be strengthened by weakening and reducing nuclear armed Pakistan to the status of an economically and militarily dependent client state under their command. Any substantial private investments in our faltering economy under such uncertainties and fears to one's life and safety appear unlikely. Is our leadership geared up to accept these challenges and take extra ordinary measures? The writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.