Asghar Khan, who breathed his last on January 5, 2018, wanted to see Pakistan become a real democracy. Though he made some incorrect political judgments that helped derail the democratic process, he was bold enough to correct his course as well. In 1977, he demanded that Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto be hanged at the Kohala Bridge and his party joined hands with the Pakistan National Alliance, which was banded to invalidate the 1977 elections. But later, when Zia-ul-Haq extended his rule to initiate the so-called accountability process, he challenged Haq’s decision in the Lahore High Court. Khan wasn’t comfortable with the political engineering that prematurely ended Benazir Bhutto’s first government and brought Nawaz Sharif’s party to power in 1990. His apprehension was confirmed when, in 1996, the former Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar, in his parliamentary address said that the 1990 general elections were rigged by the ISI. He accused the ISI of distributing millions of rupees among politicians and journalists to prevent the Pakistan People’s Party from returning to power. Following this statement, Khan filed a petition in the Supreme Court (SC) to unearth facts behind the rigging allegations. The two main protagonists of the case, the former army chief Gen (retd) Aslam Baig and the former ISI Chief Lt Gen (retd) Asad Durrani gave different versions of the story in the court. The former said that the money was distributed on the instructions of then President of Pakistan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, while the latter said that Rs 140 million was given on the directions of the army chief. The case, however, could not move further until Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry decided to reopen it after 16 years. Many people were unmasked as the case unfolded. It was proven that the ISI was running a political cell and was involved in manipulating the 1990 election results. The Federal Investigation Agency was given the task of investigating the case further. Neither the FIA had reported back to the SC, nor had the Apex court bothered to inquire about the report. The review petition filed by General Aslam Baig is also pending. The case still lies in cold storage today. Has it withered or is it still alive? Nobody is sure. But the fact is that had the case been solved, after cleaning the corrupt elements from both the civil and military cadres, for which every five years we find a campaign run in the name of accountability, democracy would have found its feet in this country. Some even go so far as to say, that if the Asghar Khan case had been solved, the Panama issue would not have been used to remove the sitting prime minister and to throw his party into political limbo. Incompetent governments, a power seeking military and an accommodating judiciary can never make for a stable state Never was the judiciary so badly addressed as it is today, by none other than the executive. The august judges are being considered the wedge that has kept the civil-military relations divided because of its compromising attitude. Every day the honour of judiciary is trampled when people like Shahrukh Jatoi and Sufi Muhammad are bailed out. Sufi Muhamad and Shahrukh Jatoi are two sides of the same coin that the system uses to patronize the religious and the elite class. The myth of an independent judiciary began to unravel as soon as Iftikhar’s court was reinstated in 2008. Not only did the lawyers become more aggressive, they even thwarted the liberal face of the judiciary by lending legal and moral support to Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Salman Taseer. The rough journey to more injustices kept wheeling from the Dogar Courts to the Khosa Courts that labelled the ruling family as a mafia fattening itself on the state’s assets. The judicial history of the country is also witness to Justice Sajjad Ali Shah’s court being mobbed by Nawaz Sharif’s cronies because it dared to charge him for contempt of court. There are three things that our courts, including the Apex court, are good at doing: relieving the criminals for lack of evidence; giving stay orders and implicating politicians in cases that otherwise require parliamentary oversight. Imran Khan is right when he says that no nation can prosper if its judicial system is not dispensing justice. The painful part of this reality is that Imran has become part of the injustice by colluding with forces that have the power to pull strings. Pakistan’s courts squandered two important occasions to reverse the fate of the country. One, when it could not assert its independence after the lawyers’ movement. Two, when it refused to pursue the Ashgar Khan case. Democracy is not about elections, it is about the implementation of the constitutional laws. If the constitution is being tampered with and institutions are hoodwinking the state, its time for the system to unravel. Incompetent governments, a power seeking military and an accommodating judiciary can never make for a stable state. The writer is a journalist; she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, January 11th 2018.