During the tense moments at Azadi Square yesterday, Arshad Sharif of Dunya News tweeted, “Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand“. He was referencing to Lady Macbeth who had assisted her husband Macbeth kill King Duncan in a rage of self-illusion created by his overheated brain and witchcraft. I retorted with a line from Macbeth’s soliloquy, just before the act of murder. “And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, which was not so before. There’s no such thing”. Had Macbeth waited a few seconds to cool himself, Duncan would never have been murdered. This is what happens when emotions override the rain.

Mian Nawaz Sharif (the Duncan) and the self-serving advisors (Lady Macbeth) made the Parliament irrelevant during fits of grandiose illusions and fears they let dominate. More than upholding democracy, their vulnerabilities and self-preservations prevented the stretching of the imagination. In peaking moments and rising adrenaline, he lost cognitive control to let distortions dictate his decision fatale. Had Nawaz Sharif democratically co-opted the house and not made them feel threatened, he would have been in a constructive position of reviewing the situation. Had he carried the house with him to re-engineer the entire system and then resigned under moral compulsions, he would have lived to return another day; perhaps stronger as a “Godot” figure. Rather than allow democracy to grow, he went back to the institution that had bred and financed him illegitimately for decades. This is an aspersion on his democratic credentials behind a façade he created with aplomb, gratifications and shady politics.

His capitulation was timid. From a hound who oversaw the Model Town massacre, he became the hare running for cover behind the boots he had publically ridiculed in concert with a media house. The grandiose around him was built on a castle of sand with money, manipulative politics, shady gratifications and narrow self-interests. The capitulation from Reason to Boots (Daleel and Gulalil) was swift and perhaps fatal. In one bad decision, he reduced Pakistan’s premier decision making body to irrelevance, reflecting a mind-set that had no faith in the system he allegedly manipulated.

The house he relegated to ignominy deserved the treatment it got. Parliamentarians with an elastic conscience sat timidly through the motions awaiting instructions from their powerful party leaders. Most with stakes in the NRO imposed system lacked the morality and ethical conviction to take a stand on questions of moral authority. Why must Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweet “BB Hum sharminda hain” (Benazir Bhutto, we are ashamed) when his father and co-chairperson could never rise beyond his balancing and compromising politics. Rather, he left the party in the lurch to travel abroad. On the other extreme, Maulana Fazalur Rehman and Mahmood Khan moved to play their respective sectarian and ethnic cards. Qamar Zaman Kaira of PPP played his role at his own initiative.

But it is too early to predict the course of events. As time passes, second thoughts would creep in. The opposition and PMLN allies in the parliament may react in their own interests. Chaudary Nisar’s defiant tone means so.

The entire edifice that perpetuates and strengthens political elites was not crafted in a day. After the Supreme Court rebellion in 1997, PMLN influence had permeated the apex courts. Politicised appointments were made in the executive and lower judiciary have now grown to be the decision makers. In 2006, elements in the judiciary and a media house were co-opted to create a very strong non state group that could create perception, punish dissidents and promote political interests. Monetary gratifications were part of the package. If a sincere effort at returning the system will reveal cabals, cartels and groups that work together to malign honest bureaucrats, heads of regulatory and accountability bodies to make shady deals. With remnants of Chaudary Courts still effective, it will be difficult to solicit balanced legal judgements. The unconstitutional precedent set by Justice Ramday empowering the full bench to review every decision will continue to haunt. Stay orders, writ petitions and delaying tactics may affect timelines.

A case study of how and why the trio of Chairmen NAB, SECP, NADRA and Governor State Bank of Pakistan were axed would reveal the extent of complicity amongst the trio. The media house would carry out the character assassination through select journalist; the targeted officials would be coerced by the top management while judiciary would move in through suo moto to misuse its writ. The same mechanism also worked towards rigging the election as alleged by an ex official of Election Commission and also the case of 35 punctures. The biggest test of reforms will be reclaiming the extra space gained by the judiciary through constitutional legislating. In case this is not accomplished, all cases of high handedness, criminality and accountability are likely to be over turned by the special benches.

The investigation of electoral rigging should be carried out through both a judicial commission and criminal investigations by Joint Investigation Teams. All electronic trails, minutes at ECP and Ministry of Law, printing of ballot papers, violations of Articles 62-63 and the individuals who benefited must be subjected to critical criminal inquests. NAB is on record having provided a list of individuals with records of corruption, defaults and accountability cases. It must be questioned why this information was ignored to benefit individuals and Chairman NAB removed in a controversial manner.

PMLN has cleverly offloaded its burden on the shoulders of the army. It is putting the army and protestors in the same bracket. If PTI and PAT do what they threaten, the military will be discredited. If the army does not sail through the rigmarole, it stands to lose credibility.

In the scheme of events, the government and sitting parliament will not cooperate; else soft boots are at risk of becoming hard boots.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.