Rape her, starve her, ridicule and defile her. Then when she stands at the door, about to escape your clutches; fall to your knees, seek pardon and offer praises and promises. Thus has been the quintessentially bipolar relationship of our political leadership, civil and military, with democracy. Used as a slogan to acquire power, an excuse to steal it and a tool to hold on to it for one last haul, democracy lives perpetually at a distance; a promise never fulfilled, a fruit yet to be tasted. Will of the people trumped by welfare of the masses trumped by will again; the cursed cycle defines our political history where both will and welfare seem no more than illusions. The words ‘democracy’ and ‘dictatorship’ are not apt to draw a distinction between our varying political regimes. I prefer to identify this political ping pong with ‘civil’ and ‘military’ rule; we have seen dictators in a democrat’s disguise. With Parliament rendered redundant and devolution but a facade, democracy is reduced to nothing but a catchphrase. With Musharraf’s ouster, civilian rule re-emerged in 2008. Once again, nine years after a dictator snatched power from a civilian ruler for ‘welfare’ of the public, it was now turn for someone to take it back as per ‘will’ of the people. It took eight years for the civilian rulers to put in place a local governments system, one which may or may not evolve into a working model. It had taken two years for a dictator to give effect to Article 140A of the Constitution; one of the most crucial provisions for an actual democracy. On the other hand, the dictator had come riding on the all popular and noble steed of accountability and retribution for the corrupt. But soon enough he would hand over its reins and the steed would be ridden everywhere but to its destination before taking a bullet to its chest when the National Reconciliation Ordinance was signed. So goes the story of each transition from civil to military and military to civil rule. ‘Will of the people’, ‘welfare of the masses’ and ‘democracy’, remain notions and concepts alien to those they promise to benefit. Today we sit at familiar cross-roads. Not because there has been another military intervention, not a direct one at least, but because we are engulfed in the same battle of narratives. Even without a General sitting at the hot seat of power, the debate between will and welfare has us engulfed and the shrieks for civil supremacy are again audible. Sharif’s ouster has raised more than a few eyebrows and some hear footsteps ‘of those of whom we do not speak’. There are those who believe the establishment has no role in this; those who believe it happened with the establishment’s help or at their behest and such was necessary for welfare of the people, and then those who believe that this is just another attack on civil supremacy which undermines will of the people. There is a storm brewing, or maybe not, but there are definite attempts at trying to brew one. There is confusion and an inability to strategise; since, unlike the past, there isn’t an actual enemy standing before them. Instead stands the highest house of justice and its noblemen and they cannot attack the perceived enemy without first striking the noblemen. There is also confusion because the system has not been done away with, but an individual; a powerful and popular individual but an individual nonetheless. Do we fight for democracy while democracy prevails? Do we take the ouster of one Parliamentarian as an attack on the entire Parliament while it stands, functions and lives? The battle camp is struck by doubt, debate and questions. How can an individual’s cause be painted in the color of collective benefit? Supporting the will and welfare of the people a true democracy make. It is our own distortion of these notions that places them in opposing camps. We need to pause, identify the enemy who poses as friend or saviour The 2007 lawyer’s movement started with a noble cause; the independence of judiciary. As evident now in retrospect, it was soon hijacked and turned into a battle of two individuals. Independence of Judiciary was pushed back and to the front came reinstatement of Ifitkhar Chaudhry and removal of Musharraf. As it turned out; Musharraf’s removal was as beneficial for democracy as was Chaudhry’s reinstatement for independence of judiciary. The noble idea was lost in the giant shadow of individuals. The fight for civilian supremacy stands to bear similar fruit if it becomes the fight for an individual’s vendetta. Both will and welfare of the people constitute a true democracy. It is our own distortion of these notions that places them in opposing camps. We need to pause, identify the enemy and the enemies who pose as a friend or saviour. We need to know and understand the concepts that we wish to strive for before we strive, we need to unlearn the distorted and demented versions taught to us. Only then can we begin the fight for us; the people, our will and our welfare. A practicing lawyer with a Masters Degree from University of Warwick, an ex-Member Provincial Assembly of the Punjab (2008-2013).Tweets at @ZafarSahi Published in Daily Times, August 11th 2017.