Vicious attacks on Ahmed Noorani last Friday have laid bare the ground realities of Pakistan, where any dissent to the military establishment’s narrative is met with brute force. This is the most recent of a slew of incidents where people critical of the establishment’s excesses were threatened, abducted, and tortured by the state apparatus. Although our history is replete with such abuses of human rights, these cases became alarmingly common since the abduction of progressive bloggers like Ahmad Waqas Goraya, Salman Haider, and Aasim Saeed earlier this year. Tactics learnt by the deep-state to quell pro-freedom voices in Balochistan are now being applied to mercilessly suppress pro-democracy narratives in the mainstream and social media. While such barbarity is inflicted by the deep-state in broad daylight, one wonders about the role of elected representatives who seem helpless in protecting citizens. The Ministry of Interior, in particular, has the legal mandate behind it to take actions against such excesses. It controls Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the country’s premier organisations charged with matters of internal security, and Islamabad Capital Territory Police, in whose jurisdiction the Ahmed Noorani incident took place. It is thus the responsibility of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal to seek out the perpetrators of this crime against free speech. Pro-democracy voices in Pakistan have come under tremendous pressure since former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the establishment with the help of kangaroo courts in July this year. Instead of accepting his fate as was expected by the deep-state, Nawaz Sharif decided to contest the decision on the streets and won widespread support from the public for his brave move. Staying true to his new defiant avatar, he appointed his trusted lieutenants on important government positions, with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the Prime Minister, Ahsan Iqbal as the Minister of Interior, and Khawaja Asif as the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It was expected that these men in powerful positions would defend democracy using their good offices. Instead, the new cabinet has been as ineffective in protecting pro-democracy voices as its predecessor. The Ministry of Interior’s failure to protect journalists and pro-democracy activists from excesses of the deep-state would slowly erode the power-base created by Maryam Nawaz on social media. Her followers are not only young and motivated, they are also ideological in their support for democracy and progressive ethos in the country Soon after taking office, Ahsan Iqbal gave the impression that he will run his ministry differently than Chaudhary Nisar. Nisar personified everything wrong with the old-guard of PML-N with his tacit support for religious extremists and loyalty to the establishment. While progressive and democratic forces in the country disliked his actions, they understood that Nawaz Sharif has little control over the rogue minister who gains his strength from the deep-state. After Ahsan Iqbal took control of the powerful ministry, it was expected that things will improve. The new minister raised hopes when he promised an inquiry into the mysterious disappearance of PML-N workers during the NA-120 by-elections. Later, he took a valiant stance against Rangers for occupying the court premises as Nawaz Sharif appeared before the accountability judge. He again promised to get to the bottom of the issue and hold officials accountable for disregarding his authority. Needless to mention that both these promises are now forgotten. Lack of accountability of establishment forces would lead to a continuation of such incidents. Indeed, the Interior Minister looked helpless as members of FIA, an organization he oversees, abducted social media activists of his own party last week. While social media accounts openly instigating violence against minorities and members of the elected government remain functional, the FIA decided to apply cybercrime law on pro-democracy activists. It is a matter of deep shame that Nawaz Sharif had to issue a public statement in support of his followers who were abducted by an agency supervised by a minister of his own party. The Ministry of Interior’s failure to protect journalists and pro-democracy activists from excesses of the deep-state would slowly erode the power-base created by Maryam Nawaz on social media. Her followers are not only young and motivated, they are also ideological in their support for democracy and progressive ethos in the country. These men and women can only provide unwavering support to the party’s cause if they are given the protection they deserve from their party’s ministers. PML-N has never been a cadre-based party, which might explain the lack of empathy and support this new breed of workers is receiving from party ministers. These leaders should understand that defending the party’s narrative on social and television media is as important as constituency politics today. Failure to protect journalists and activists supporting democracy would undo the grounds gained by Nawaz Sharif in generating hope for true democratic rule in Pakistan as people will stop defending the party for fear of their lives. This could severely harm PML-N’s prospects in the 2018 general elections. If the Interior Minister continues to fall short on his promises, we would get the impression that either the PML-N has decided to reconcile with establishment forces, or that Ahsan Iqbal is as weary of Nawaz Sharif’s belligerent politics as Chaudhary Nisar. In either case, Mr Iqbal should make his feelings clear so people supporting democracy would stop risking their lives for the sake of meaningless ministerial portfolios. There is no reason for anyone to be abducted, shot, or beaten if the very people benefiting from their sacrifices are not ready to claim their space and take a stand for civilian supremacy. Dear Interior Minister, please do your job and protect the people who stand for democracy, or resign like you suggested in your own speech. I am sure you will agree that a powerless portfolio will only bring dishonour to your good name. The writer is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration at Cleveland State University. He can be reached at email@example.com. His twitter handle is @RamblingSufi Published in Daily Times, October 29th 2017.