Gen (rtd) Pervez Musharraf has long considered himself an officer and a gentleman. And it seems that he has now finally got a break. For the Army wants him back. The people of Pakistan need him. Even Trump Town would do better with him at the helm. Or, at least this is likely how the good general is viewing the unfolding political scenario.Pakistan is now effectively a theocracy. The mullahs have won the political standoff. The government is in retreat and the Army is effectively out of the barracks; standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the religious right. That will teach the Centre for holding up Musharraf’s diplomatic passport. Just yesteryear’s television A-team gang of mercenaries, the former president of Enlightened Moderation loves it when a plan comes together. For as he sees it — the khakis’ much-touted mainstreaming project is simply a continuation of the years that he endured during his second arranged marriage. Naturally, he would, back then, make efforts to be seen grudgingly admitting that the usual infidelities and betrayals had left both sides bitter and mistrustful. Outwardly, he liked to give the impression of a man of ideals and principles trying to make a respectable, obedient wife out of a wayward concubine. Of a man left saddled with those mullahs who refused to leave the marital bed of political convenience.But the reality was that they were his security; his justification for not doffing the uniform that he knew made him look so very dashing. That was why he had agreed to the 2002 elections-cum-marital contract. And the six-party religious alliance — the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal — had presented its domination of the then North West Frontier Assembly and its partial control of the Balochistan Assembly as a more than generous dowry. Thus was Gen Musharraf able to present to his western benefactors the political tightrope of his own making; the one that he had to walk given that he alone was to stand between the progressive salvation of South Asia and the nuclear abyss of fundamentalism. And all the while the mullahs were dancing their choreographed dance. The scene is set for Gen Musharraf’s return. For if the civilians see nothing wrong in contesting elections against the supporters of Hafiz Saeed — they can’t possibly object to running against a former military strongman who happens to be a declared absconder in the Benazir Bhutto murder caseToday, Pakistan is a somewhat harder country. It has swapped American string-pulling for that which is made in China. And this has made the military establishment feel all the bolder. For the Chinese concern is likely not to extend beyond the security of their infrastructure projects and citizens. Thus have those that hold the real power here cut the tightrope. No longer are they interested in appearing to contain the mullahs. The priority is now to legitimise the right-wing religious zealotry that held hostage the federal capital for some three weeks. And the civilians have unwittingly fallen into the complicity trap. The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as well as the Milli Muslim League (MML) stood in two by-elections earlier this year. The former was founded on a wave of support for Mumtaz Qadri. And the latter has as its spiritual father the recently released Hafiz Saeed. Thus the political parties that fought these local polls chose to do so on equal footing with religious extremists that some might prefer to call globally proscribed terrorists. The civilians therefore legitimised them; effectively doing the security establishment’s bidding.All of which aims at further provocation towards India and, indeed, the US. For this is possibly not quite what Washington had in mind when it told Pakistan to do more, more, more to flush out militant safe-havens. But the real losers are the country’s minorities. For if the TLP can bring the government to its knees over the amendment to the Finality of Prophethood declaration for electoral candidates in the Elections Act 2017 — there exists not even the pretence of protecting anyone. For when majority is not safe, everyone remains in peril. Thus the game is up. And those who are now calling for early elections would do well to contemplate just how much potential bloodshed their party has on its hands. The latter, after all, took what it termed a principled stand and boycotted the 2008 elections on the basis that any government elected on the back of the National Reconciliation Ordinance stood outside the democratic process. But like the others, it is today fixated upon removing the ruling party from the political scene above and beyond keeping the entire citizenry safe. And it hasn’t cared with whom it is holding hands to see that done. This was the time for the entire political leadership to stand united. That some elements chose opportunism over the people of this country tells us all we need to know.Thus this neatly paves the way for Gen Musharraf to return to the political scene. For if the so-called democratic set-up sees nothing wrong in running against the supporters of the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks — a man with a $10 million bounty on his head — it can’t possibly object to contesting general elections alongside a former military strongman who happens to be a declared absconder in the Benazir Bhutto murder case. In short, a coup has taken place. The elections have been pre-emptively rigged. And the scene is set for the enemy combatant’s return. Welcome back to the future, Pakistan. The writer is the Deputy Managing Editor, Daily Times. She can be reached at email@example.com and tweets @humeiweiPublished in Daily Times, November 28th 2017.