After the exorcism of those I call democratic “demons,” (the pseudo-democratic forces whose very creation was inherently problematic to notions of democracy), perhaps Imran Khan will emerge as the only show in town. The “Kaptan” and his party will be the ones to steer the nation out of its current mess without alliances and compromises; and the politics of honesty and real service to the nation might finally come back.

In the past, political leaders were launched through manipulated elections and compromises. That was how they landed in the corridors of power. The Chaudhris of Gujrat and the Sharifs of Lahore are glaring examples of these (khaki) misadventures.

Fortunately for Pakistan, in the year 2014, there has arrived a political leader in the arena with real credibility and electability. The assistance of GHQ or the support of “demon networks” is no longer required. In the words of Steve Jobs: ‘Lead or get out of the way.’ Captaincy demands leading from the front of the ranks. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) can face the electorate on its own merit.

In the only free and fair elections held in Pakistan in 1970, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) prevailed in West Pakistan on the merit of his reforms program. Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy (HSS), a stalwart of the Pakistan Movement, bravely faced the Muslim League on one hand and the Khakis under Ayub Khan on the other. Imran Khan has an opportunity to do the same.

At the time of the first khaki misadventure in 1958, there were two political forces; Qayyum Khan in West Pakistan and HSS in East Pakistan. Both were men of integrity and solid credentials. The scheduled elections under the 1956 constitution could have resulted in the premiership of either one. Opinions differ on the intent of the takeover but both men resisted. Khan was kept in the dungeons of the Lahore Fort where he surrendered and went home. HSS decided to challenge his EBDO (Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance) and he successfully defended his own case in the military tribunal. General Ayub Khan, despite his military muscle, could not tame HSS. Finally, one of the greatest politicians of the sub-continent was found dead in a Beirut Hotel.

General Raheel Sharif is no Ayub Khan and Imran Khan is no Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan is blessed with credible leadership after a long time. The IJI Model 2014 has to be different. In 1990 ,Islami Jamhori Ittehad was clobbered together to neutralize the democratic threat of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). It was a two pronged approach; first the comrades of change within PPP were cornered and then Benazir Bhutto was defeated at the pools through a manipulated ballot.

It was assumed that Nawaz Sharif would faithfully serve under Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK). Almost all the candidates and the cabinet were put in place for him. Wealth generation was his forte and his politics were confined to this approach. The ‘Kaptan’ on the other hand, can pick his own team and then get elected without a manipulated ballot as was done in 1990. He can sit across the table with the Khaki leadership and negotiate their return to the barracks under an agreed formula.

Pakistan faces serious challenges of governance. The writ of the state has to be established. Imagine the time when the state was being established, and the commitment of the founding fathers in building the institutions that were to be the basis of that establishment. Ayub, Zia, Yahya, and Musharraf were involved in the weakening of civilian institutions. Compared to them, General Raheel Sharif is a professional soldier. I am sure he too desires to build the armed forces that he heads, but not at the cost of the nation as his predecessors did. For the sake of the nation, the civilian institutions have to be rebuilt and the fact of the matter is, that only bonafide elected leadership can rebuild civilian institutions. “Lotas” and “Luteras” are only good for destruction, not building. All is not lost; Pakistan has seen honest and credible political leadership (Liaquat Ali Khan, Hussain Shaheed Suharwary, Qayyum Khan, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Iftikhar Mamdot, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Muhammed Khan Junejo). It is now a dominating belief that the country will be safe under the leadership of the good “Kaptan” and his untainted team. The Khakis, following from this, can then safely return to the barracks under a proposed framework, i.e. through strict adherence to the 1973 constitution, an autonomous Election Commission holding free and fair elections, the cleansing and scrutiny of candidates for elections, an independent accountability bureau, human resource development with a focus on education, health and employment, non interference in respective domains as defined by the Constitution, the demilitarization of the civilian sectors, and finally, through joint responsibility for the nation’s peace and security.

The writer is ex-chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.