While many Pakistani citizens tout democracy as the solution to many of the country’s problems, the resolve to uphold democracy wanes at the first sign of trouble. Underpinned by feelings of panic and impatience, even the slightest hint of dismal service is enough to drive democracy out. But the loss of trust in Pakistan’s executive machinery is not the citizens fault. An abysmal state of governance and the lack of any unifying vision has plagued Pakistani politics since the nation was founded and still dominates public discourse. When the utopian picture of democracy painted by political leaders fails to align with realities, a faction of the champions of democracy turns to their ever present saviour — The saviour that comes dressed in khakis and an imaginary red cape. But how exactly does the saviour enter the picture and where does it derive its power from? Article 58(2)(b) of the Constitution of Pakistan allows the president to dismiss the constituent assembly when a government cannot continue in adherence to the provisions of constitution. Following a period of sustained instability, it was in 1958 that this power was first used by the president of Pakistan to declare martial law and appoint the army chief as martial law administrator. The provision of constitution that builds on the concept of constitutional monarchy, fully captures the spirit of democracy while embracing the need for checks by an independent monarch (modern day president). The constitutional monarch who can only act within the parameters of a codified constitution has minimal powers to meddle with the affairs of executive branch but enough powers to dismiss elected parliament under certain circumstances. Traditionally, constitutional monarchs have played a defining role in derailing coups that have threatened to overthrow democratic institutions. The Spanish coup of 1981 is one such example. In Pakistan however, these constitutional monarchs have sometimes had to conjure military might to do the exact opposite: temporarily subvert democracy to prevent abuses of power. While rumour mills are going strong, how likely is an actual military coup in the current milieu?The absence of the more assertive generals who have already retired means the likelihood of a direct coup is remote. If you add to this the fact that Pakistan cannot afford to lose foreign aid or upset China, the likelihood virtually plummets Historically, the nation has seen several such abuses by elected representatives. Among the more recent ones, the constitutional amendments of 1997 that stripped the President of his reserve powers and parliamentarians of their power to cast a dissenting vote resulted in visible rifts in public trust. The amendments that systematically did away with institutional checks on executive branch made way for a coup that was widely welcomed by some factions. Today we are at the same cross roads again. The heavy majority that allowed Nawaz Sharif to alter the constitution in 1997 has allowed him to make some unpopular tweaks again. The recent electoral reform bill paves way for the sacked Prime Minister to assume leadership of the ruling party again. So long as the person in question does not serve as office bearer, the bill allows the disqualified party member to get elected and remain the party president. The law has been dubbed as ludicrous by opposition members who have vowed to challenge it in court. Worse still, the absence of various members of opposing parties during the session of assembly has fuelled grim speculations about underhanded deals between the ruling party and other parties. Manipulation of law by political parties to serve their own interests has strengthened the public perception that the country is becoming a civilian dictatorship. If you add to this the allegations of rampant corruption, the unacceptable performance of opposition leaders in their respective provinces, the proliferation of loyal but inept government advisors, the violation of election code in the NA-120 by-polls, the woeful power shortage, and Nawaz Sharif’s endeavour to strengthen ties with neighbouring India, speculations about military intervention become a tad more conceivable. But while rumour mills are going strong, how likely is an actual military coup in the current milieu? Although attempts to override the will of Pakistanis is paving way for seditious sentiments, the absence of the more assertive Generals who have already retired means the likelihood of a direct coup is remote. If you add to this the fact that Pakistan cannot afford to lose foreign aid or upset China’s interest in the country, the likelihood virtually plummets. But even with a low probability of a direct coup, nothing is keeping military narratives from co-existing with representative democracy. According to one school of thought, national security and foreign policy have always been the military’s domain anyway and attempts to engineer policy shifts by civilian governments have almost always failed. Even with a low probability of a direct coup, nothing is keeping military narratives from co-existing with representative democracy. According to one school of thought, national security and foreign policy have always been the military’s domain anyway and attempts to engineer policy shifts by civilian governments have almost always failed Co-existence of military narratives with representative democracy can take a number of forms one of which is ceding control over some of the key ministries to military in return for a new lease on political life. Another is allowing the military to retain a greater say in the country’s policy over relations with arch-rival India and the ongoing war against Taliban. But whatever form it takes, we need to get one thing straight: although interventionist strategies can sometimes serve the greater good of restoring democracy, peaceful transfer of power between civilian governments is the flat-out answer to our woes. Democracy is a wonderful thing to defend. If we can somehow learn to tame it, lofty military ambitions will stop making their way into mainstream politics. The writer is an author, blogger, and social activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and fb.com/talha.afzal.127 Published in Daily Times, October 10th 2017.