After a hiatus of over four years, the appointment of Khawaja Asif as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister suddenly brings everything to life. Foreign Minister’s quick visit to China followed by UNGA and media talks have sent a message that Pakistan’s diplomacy is up and rolling. Maleeha Lodhi’s retort to India was aggressive and focused. This newly found activism has convinced many Pakistanis that the government is now more assertive. The immediate effect is positive but only so.

The net result of this resurgent diplomacy has been that the international and domestic media debates have singularly shifted from Panama to militant groups. Kashmir talk was a bubble meant to distract critics. While the objective remains unchanged, the methodology has become different and more dangerous.

Khawaja Asif’s public or off the record statements are multidimensional.

Rather than the initial rhetoric that Nawaz Sharif was a victim of international reaction to CPEC, he now explains that the disqualified prime minister is a victim of India friendly policies. This narrative appeases American ears and means that the Army’s corporate interests against India forced Nawaz Sharif’s exit. It also accepts India-centric US policies in the region. The PML team completes the lines in short bursts fired at a Judicial-Military nexus. Though India is a new insertion, the media has picked the threads thoughtlessly.

Secondly, by repeatedly pointing to homegrown militancy and singling out Haqqani Group, JeM and LeT, Khawaja Asif is reiterating the charges of Dawn Leaks.

Pointing consistently to homegrown militancy is an accusation on military and ISI before international media. By admitting that Pakistan suffers from the menace and that Pakistan needs time to sort it out, he has accepted western allegations of ‘Do More’ and nullified all gains of Zarb e Azb and Rad ul Fissad. He suggests that these two military operations are a facade to protect bigger criminal organizations. This means the military must do more, indicating a resonance of US policy.

Whether a civilian government can affect a policy against the three named organizations, and spare those sympathetic to it like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and others, is unclear. This is a hazardous statement that could lead to civil unrest. Pitching military particularly against pro-PML (N) militant groups in Punjab seems an obvious stratagem. A platform has been prepared to take on the army with the support of diverse actors and international backers. Once the battle begins, Indo-Afghan Nexus from the west will resume large-scale trouble in FATA and Baluchistan. The military stretched beyond its tactical capabilities like 1971 will then be brought to its knees.

In 1971, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto played this game with support from Russia while China was an onlooker. Now both PMLN and PPPP along with allies will reenact this game for ultimate civil supremacy. They hope to make China an onlooker.

The third dimension is the supremacy of parliament and democracy. This theme is similar to statements made by Chairman Senate. In other words, this means civilian supremacy over the army by two successively very corrupt regimes to appease international ears and by consequence means to put an end to the accountability drive led by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Therefore, it is amusing to see leaders of Pakistan’s two most corrupt political parties open debates on accountability and justice. The latest trend is evolving discussions on National Accountability Ordinance that restricts accountability of armed forces and judiciary to departmental actions and why it should not be held the way it is held for other citizens of the country. At the same time, Military Inc. by Ayesha Saddiqa Agha (a plagiarised version of Military Sociology books by Amos Perlmutter, Huntington, and Janowitz), Hussain Haqqani and anti-Pakistan western media spurn propaganda showing the military-backed organizations as the biggest economic hit men of Pakistan. Military’s role in national development is being demonized.

The segment of Pakistanis quick to buy these arguments has seldom bothered to compare hundred times more corruption outside Army Welfare Trust, DHAs, and other foundations. Military’s model of privatized urban development and copied by Bahria Town is now under siege, and Malik Riaz has stakes in it.

Lastly, there are indicators that command of Pakistan’s premier spy agency ISI should pass on to civilian heads. The process of beefing civilian cadres has already begun, and schisms are being encouraged between military and civilian officers of ISI.

So the witches have come up with a new plan with renewed fervor. The plan has the complete support of MQM London, sub-nationalists parties, separatists, real estate tycoons and international actors opposed to CPEC and Pakistan’s armed forces. The CPEC mantra from the removal of Nawaz Sharif has been dropped. A major segment of the media has picked up these themes thoughtlessly drawing away focus from Panama and Accountability.

Nawaz Sharif eager to get ‘No way but my way’ is ready to sacrifice anything to stay relevant and save his billions in dollars.

So as rumored, five drafts on amended laws prepared by PML(N) and PPPP are ready to be tabled for approval. Political parties in the Senate have already approved one these two bills related to the Head of political parties. It is most likely that a fresh spate of activity will prelude the last battle for the ‘Charter of Democracy.’

MQM Pakistan’s desire to affect a clean break from London to become a mainstream political party could have inadvertently provided the catalyst to speed up this plan and bring strange bedfellows together.  Now MQM Pakistan will be under far more pressure from within and outside.

I am sure that the idea of MQM-PTI cooperation agenda was germinating for months. MQM Pakistan’s objective was to break away from its past and also London to morph into a mainstream political party with Pakistan’s interests at its core. No one can deny MQM Pakistan this right as representative of Sindh’s large segment of the urban population. Rather every patriotic Pakistani must help the party to make this transition. But this desire has resulted in coalescing agents of corrupt inertia.

PTI rather than keeping this activity extremely discreet and fruitful allowed a half-cooked idea to be debated in the media exposing fissures within. The lead time has provided an opportunity to others for regrouping. An opportunity to hedge Pakistan’s interests (not PTI’s gains) against an expected onslaught is being lost for petty interests. In a worst-case scenario, having made the first moves and then stuttered, both parties and Pakistan could suffer.

What happens to the hype of CPEC? Gwadar looks dazzling on paper and advertisements. On the ground, it is a desolate fishing town with nothing happening. The communication infrastructure has not moved beyond a two-way metaled road. There is still no water desalination plant.

The events unfolding are at a far greater pace than the slow speed accountability. The military is reluctant to intervene. Going slow means deeper mess. Pakistan is in a logjam.

Meanwhile, all drain plugs on Pakistan’s economy are ready to be unscrewed. Overvalued Rupee, circular debt, debt trap, lopsided export-import ratio and proliferation of political business cartels can create a tailspin in days.