Two images of Pakistan’s politics from the past week vividly illustrate the country’s consistent decline.

On the one hand, President Asif Ali Zardari presided over the fifth death anniversary commemoration of his late wife Benazir Bhutto, in the family’s ancestral homeland of Larkana in the south-western Sindh province. Though the gathering was ostensibly meant to remember a deeply sombre moment in Pakistan’s history with Bhutto’s assassination in December 2007, it quickly turned into a political jamboree for Zardari’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The event saw Bilawal, the 24-year-old son of Zardari and Bhutto, effectively launching his political career by delivering a fiery speech.

However, just ahead of the commemoration came the sorry tale surrounding Aslam Bhootani, the speaker of the provincial legislature of the south-west Balochistan province, forced out in a controversial vote of no-confidence. The change appears to have come at the behest of Aslam Raisani, Balochistan’s Chief Minister and one of the best-known aristocrats of the province.

So controversial was the vote that evidence quickly surfaced of legislators showing off their ballots to two senior government officials who work under Raisani, providing evidence of their loyalty to the chief minister.

At one stage, leaked video footage on at least one Pakistani private TV channel showed Raisani himself waving the ballot paper in full view of the two officials. The episode smacks more of the blatant use of force to coerce Bhootani rather than adherence to the full spirit of democracy.

Taken together, these two events quickly reinforced the character of a democracy which is far from taking solid root in Pakistan — thanks to one controversy after another. For Zardari, the event in Larkana was probably more meaningful to kick-off preparations for the PPP to contest the next parliamentary elections, rather than oversee the consolidation of Pakistan’s still young and potentially fragile democracy.

In sharp contrast, the sorry event in Balochistan quickly became a powerful reminder of the many pitfalls surrounding Pakistan’s democratic order, more than 65 years after the country became independent. Since 2008, Zardari and the other leaders of the ruling structure have repeatedly claimed their aspiration to oversee a genuine democratic change in Pakistan. Yet, their energies appear mainly focused on consolidating their own rule. In the president’s own case, this has been evident nowhere more than the determination shown repeatedly by members of Pakistan’s ruling structure to defy calls for formally requesting authorities in Switzerland to reopen long-standing investigations of corruption against Zardari.

The matter was finally resolved in 2012 when the government conceded ground to the Supreme Court’s repeated calls for a formal request to be sent to Swiss authorities. The change of heart, however, came only after former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was dismissed by the Supreme Court for having repeatedly failed to comply with its order.

While such shenanigans have continued, Pakistan’s democratic framework continues to suffer on multiple fronts, mostly to do with the government’s failure to tackle important challenges. In the meantime, Pakistanis suffer on multiple fronts, ranging from energy shortages to bearing the consequences of a weak economy, while rulers such as Zardari and others at the top tier of the govenrment have preferred to only solidify their grip on power.

While the moment of reckoning for the ruling structure will indeed arrive by mid-2013, when the next parliamentary elections are due, it is possible that Pakistan’s rulers may face the proverbial music well ahead of that landmark event.

An announcement by Tahirul Qadri, a respected Islamic scholar, to lead a large protest to Islamabad on January 14, to press for fundamental changes in the way Pakistan is ruled, may indeed trigger a fresh anti-government protest. Earlier in December, Qadri surprised many when he successfully mobilised tens of thousands of Pakistanis to join a public gathering that he organised in the central city of Lahore.

For the moment, Qadri has refuted suggestions that he is aspiring to seize political power. Instead, he has firmly put himself across as the voice of Pakistan’s moral conscience, rising to press the government for finally delivering the rights of ordinary Pakistanis.

Though the fate of Qadri’s campaign is difficult to predict, his ability to mobilise Pakistanis only brings out a singular important message. It is possible that Pakistanis may be getting just too tired of a democratic order which allows the likes of Raisani to force his preferences by hook or by crook, while the country’s mainstream population increasingly suffers.

The writer is a political and economic analyst. This article has been reproduced from  the Gulf News.