It was over a year before that the military junta had deposed ZA Bhutto’s elected government on charges of rigging in the March 1977 elections. A beleaguered and besieged Bhutto was adroitly walking the tightrope of not antagonizing and alarming the generals by keeping a very low profile. With Bhutto alive, his party was closely united behind him and its leadership and cadre of workers were quietly poised for a clean sweep in the general elections announced by General Zia-ul-Haq. The people want to shape their destiny through the power of their vote and they are as ready for democracy as they were during the reign of Ayub Khan. If history is anything to go by, the season of resistance is upon us and the time to resist is now! Bhutto had managed to dupe the generals who seemed inclined to believe the intelligence briefings which invariably predicted a narrow defeat for the PPP. The one-sided and biased intelligence assessments never factored in the sympathy wave that Bhutto was quietly riding and that wave was gradually gathering strength. The seeming lull and the outward calm artificially created by Zia’s martial law had completely masked the public sentiment towards Bhutto. Revulsion during the PNA’s agitation had converted into sympathy that one feels for the underdog. The problem of image building that the PPP was struggling to manage had been solved by the monochrome and brutal life under military rule exactly the same way it is happening for PMLN and Nawaz Sharif these days in the wake of the Supreme Court Order declaring that Sharif was no more Sadiq and Ameen, therefore, not fit to be member of the Parliament under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution. What seemed like a master stroke on the part of Zia to allow political rallies just a month prior to the elections that he had announced for October 1978 had now spectacularly backfired and had started to morph into his own veritable death warrant.September 1977 the military junta were suddenly jolted from their complacent slumber by reports of multitudes of “dirty, illiterate and ignorant” masses thronging and jamming the Grand Trunk Road to greet Bhutto. Like he had not been able to honour his promise of holding general elections within 90 days in 1977, Zia in his self-serving voice had announced to the nation, ‘Elections have been postponed due to unfavourable conditions prevailing in the country. Political activities shall remain suspended till further orders’. Zia and his colluding generals had echoed their political guru, Ayub Khan’s mantra that the people of Pakistan were not ready for western democracy hence they will be introduced to “controlled democracy” in phases. Bhutto’s fate looked sealed. He was arrested on violating a martial law regulation but was released on bail by Justice Samdani of Lahore High Court. When he was re-arrested a few weeks later in connection with the murder of Nawab Muhammad Ahmad Khan, he could not make out alive such was the planning in place on the part of Zia and his collaborators to physically eliminate him through a farcical trial. There may not be exact similarities between 2017 and 1978 but there are certain disturbing parallels which may not require great intellectuals to register and comprehend. To borrow a Dickensian phrase, it was the best of times it was the worst of times, is how the historian will describe today’s imbroglio. And yet the good thing is (although tragic is the word that comes to mind) that the events are moving along very predictably and ominously with military precision like a pincer movement in the battlefield. The only difference is this time around the political class, sans the odd debauched politician, has learned its lessons well form its past mistakes. More tragically the country seems pitched against a mindset which still gladly embraces the cold war worldview as the Gospel truth and whose obsolete manual of International Relations refuses to innovate and evolve according to the changing geo-strategic realities. It is time to rewrite that manual which depressingly reads like the Contingency Plan kept in the dusty bookshelves of the infamous 111 Brigade titled, “Steps to take at the Time of Takeover”. Serious differences remain over how to combat insurgency in the name of religion but it is the belief and ability to bring about regime change and to discredit and rubbish the political system and its so-called failings which do little to project Pakistan as an emerging democracy. Optics are after all very significant in this sordid saga of three way power struggle involving the security establishment, the Parliament and the judiciary. For example, tweets on behalf of the Army Chief reiterating to the effect that no one will be above the law from here onwards and Musharraf brazenly extolling the virtues of dictatorship to name but a few. A number of interpretations have always been offered to the increasingly younger, impatient, impetuous and hence unforgiving Pakistani middle class from those who peddle the “replace the corrupt politician” mantra. A casual or saucy quip or a catch phrase during an after dinner discussion from an establishment sympathizer catches on when it is uttered on the electronic media and quickly becomes the national narrative. The importance of democratic institutions gaining confidence and strength through continuity of democratic process is frowned upon by these circles and are shifted to the back burner in our national discourse. The breaking news junkies seem to have hijacked the national narrative and have moved its focus away from constitutionality and rule of law. It is depressing to see such celebrated but disgruntled columnists shamefacedly siding against the ruling party on TV while quite visibly carrying personal grudges, some for not being allocated tickets in the elections, others for embarrassingly childish trivialities all at the expense of a fledgling democratic process. Although there are troubling precedents and parallels in history, but it is hard to say what and which state institution influenced the Supreme Court while disqualifying Nawaz Sharif. Suffice it to say that when Zhou Enlai, the first Chinese Premier was asked while on an official tour to France what his thoughts were on the French Revolution, he replied, “It is too early to tell”. On the other hand, if one looks for a legal principle behind the above disqualification order the only support one gets is from a number of un-appealable royal decrees from more than a thousand years back. The banana republic epithet will be very hard to shed if disruption in political process after every ten years remains the top priority of the state. Cleansing the system of “corrupt and traitorous” politicians must stop now. Misplaced and disastrous pipedreams of direct military rule by citing the examples of Al-Sissi’s Egypt and Thailand must remain just that, dreams. If there was a need to have an intra national dialogue on the course the country is to take post CPEC the time for it is now. Nawaz Sharif has every right to place his side of the story before the people of Pakistan while driving on the GT Road. The people want to shape their destiny through the power of their vote and they are as ready for democracy as they were during the reign of Ayub Khan. If history is anything to go by, the season of resistance is upon us and the time to resist is now! The writer is a Lahore based lawyer. Follow him on twitter @Tariq_Bashir Published in Daily Times, July 9th , 2017.