Amidst sit-ins in the capital, calls for the Prime Minister’s resignation as well as dissolution of assemblies, and Chief of Army Staff stepping in to play the mediator, one cannot help but ask how it all fares for the country’s democracy. Sit-ins, protests, and calls for resignation – none of it is illegal or outrageously undemocratic. But, does that necessarily mean that all this will have a positive impact on the system? Has democracy in Pakistan taken three steps back or is it at a brand new brink of evolution? Things are hardly ever all good or all bad, and this situation is no exception. Let’s look at the positive indicators first.

Be it Imran Khan or Tahir-ul-Qadri, the government or the opposition parties, everyone is compelled to seek constitutional validity for their actions. There is a reason why Qadri spends so much of his time explaining how his actions do not violate the constitution. If he could, he would throw the book in the bin before all. But, he cannot, and that is because we, as a country, are simply unwilling to compromise on the constitution. Anyone taking a clear position against it will stand vilified. Even those crusading against it now go through its pages to seek cover.

Secondly, the role played by the opposition parties such as PPP, ANP, JI, JUI-F, PkMAP and so on has been quite encouraging. Where earlier the opposition would not think twice before seizing the opportunity to send the government home, and would end up derailing the entire system, the behavior this time demonstrates political maturity and farsightedness. We have seen them unite in face of a possible attack on the Parliament, which bodes well for the future of democracy. Furthermore, the majority of people have taken a position against the sit-ins by PTI and PAT. Fiery speeches and false promises of revolution have failed to incite the wider public. They wish to see the government complete its term and continue to favour ballot over bullet, or anything else.

On the other hand, what is deeply regretful is that the latest entrant in the political scene, the PTI, appears to have its mind stuck firmly in the 90s. It remains politically immature and impatient, and is negatively contributing to the national discourse by reintroducing rigidity and extremism. Its supporters view political opponents as enemies, and that is bound to have a detrimental effect on the overall political culture. Such an absolutist approach leads to polarization, leaving little room for reasonable debate without which a democratic society simply cannot flourish.

Most unfortunately, recent events have made it clear that the ‘free media’, which many previously believed would act as shield to protect democracy, can just as easily be used as a sword against it. A certain section of the electronic media has actively campaigned against democratic institution for the sake of commercial interests and the powers that be. So, what we have now are two opposing forces, fighting for opposing ideals, and that is really how it has always been. No victory is eternal, no loss is permanent. The fight will never stop, and nor should it.