The game of power has intensified in the country. Leaders of both the PML-N-led Pakistan Democratic Movement and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf appear desperate to unnerve each other. At the same time, both sides continue to express the fear of ‘political engineering.’ This is strengthening the apprehensions that contrary to claims in public the sponsored game of thrones in national politics is far from over. Ever since his unceremonial ouster from power in April last year, Imran Khan has been blaming the ‘neutrals’ for each blow dealt to him by the ruling coalition. After the PML-N’s debacle in the Punjab Assembly, where Chief Minister Pervez Elahi succeeded to mustering the vote of confidence despite the former’s claims to the contrary, similar vibes are now also emanating from the other side. Khawaja Saad Rafique, the PML-N stalwart, sounded depressed when he alleged in a tweet earlier this week that the ‘establishment is meddling with democracy.’ Social media and pro-government vloggers also spoke of political moves being managed. There can be no mechanism to check the authenticity of such accusations. But some indicators in the power game do tend to create doubts. Last month, Imran Khan claimed that MQM factions were being united in Karachi and efforts were underway to merge Balochistan Awami Party leaders into PPP to edge him out of politics. Politics and democracy have their dynamics. They might run into tougher times as we presently do. But they do take the right course once they are allowed to work. People learn from experiences. The Pakistani electorates have never elected any party, which has not delivered in its previous tenure. Simultaneously, the London-based Altaf Hussain tweeted optimism to return to Karachi and its politics shortly. While the MQM splinter groups merged into their mainstream party last week, Altaf Hussain was, maybe for the time being, kept out. Imran Khan’s fears also got vindicated in Balochistan, where several BAP leaders joined forces with the PPP. The decades of sponsored political manoeuvrability have made Pakistanis so sceptical that even the decisions by the higher judiciary, the NAB, and the Election Commission are not taken at face value, and behind-the-scenes wrangling is feared. Unfortunately, these doubts prove correct in most cases, particularly when a set pattern is noticed in the flow of events. When Lahore High Court passed several verdicts in favour of PTI in the recent past, federal Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar alleged in a TV programme that such decisions came as the son of the Chief Justice (or maybe some Judge) was a member of Punjab cabinet. Later, when Imran Khan announced the withdrawal of resignations of PTI members from the National Assembly and spoke of the no-trust vote against Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, speculations again made the rounds in social media that things were being orchestrated. When, in recent weeks, some suspicions grew about the government’s affairs with the IMF, ideas were floated about the possible induction of a technocrat set-up. So-called technocrats, like Shabbar Zaidi, appeared on national media strengthening doubts about the possible role of the establishment behind the move. The same was the case when Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid echoed “plans” to hold general elections in April this year. The question is, “Who made the plan if the establishment is neutral?” Politicians do accuse each other of being patronized by the powers that be, particularly when the opposite side gives a tougher time. But if apprehensions about behind-the-scenes “string pulling” are correct, it will be unfortunate for the country. In his last address before his retirement, General Qamar Javed Bajwa claimed that the military establishment had decided in February last year not to intervene in political affairs. Like a gentleman’s words, his assertion was fully believed. But some subsequent happenings, particularly the disclosure of Pervez Elahi that he had joined Imran Khan at the behest of General Bajwa, shed doubts on the claim. The way political parties are waging their tug of war in the face of the economic meltdown, default fears, skyrocketing commodity prices, power and gas crises, growing terrorist attacks, and other security threats has effectively confronted the country with an existential threat. Pakistan’s ill luck is that there are many politicians and spin doctors, like Tariq Aziz of General Musharraf’s era, who see their fortune sprouting in marshal laws. If our state institutions believe that they can continue to manipulate politics without causing damage to the country’s vital interests, then they have not learnt any lesson from the past. Politics is not a game to be played on the spur of the moment. Those in power can certainly manage its tides and subvert its flow. But history has its law of retribution-both for countries and individuals. Let alone the advanced countries of the West and Far East. Countries around us, like India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Iran, are run under a system of governance without any third-party interference. The result is that their economy, health and education services, security, and all state affairs are all moving forward under a proper mechanism, albeit in low gear. Politics and democracy have their dynamics. They might run into tougher times as we presently do. But they do take the right course once they are allowed to work. People learn from experiences. The Pakistani electorates have never elected any party, which has not delivered in its previous tenure. But we have to trust the people and allow them, as well as the politicians, to learn from their wrong decisions and build a strong political mechanism for running the country. He writer is an independent freelance journalist based in Islamabad covering South Asia/ Central Asia.