A major newspaper sometimes known for its objectivity and independence wrote this on Wednesday about national politics: “This is a no-holds-barred confrontation that may spin completely out of control.” In an editorial it said, “The Balochistan episode has demonstrated the power of the deep state and its apparent ability to manipulate the system from within and without completely subverting it….” So the big question is: is the deep state trying to manipulate the system, to the point of subverting it, almost? What took place in Balochistan was described as a masterstroke with remarkable machinations, which saw the majority party dissolved into nothingness overnight. “It has indeed been an amazing turn of fortunes.” On Thursday, another masterstroke was played, not by the deep state, but by interested parties hunting for the kill in these troubling times for the ruling party. Erstwhile opponents PTI and PPP used the shoulders of Dr Tahirul Qadri to stage a political show in Lahore that only produced some banner headlines but not much in substance. Both PPP and PTI had political axes to grind — PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari trying to prove that he was still relevant in Punjab, and PTI chief Imran Khan showing that he was flexible even to the extent of sharing the same container with Zardari, without coming too close to him. Both failed as the show flopped because it was engineered or structured in a grossly flawed manner. Each party wanted to use the resources and popularity of the others, without contributing substantially. Erstwhile opponents PTI and PPP used the shoulders of Dr Tahirul Qadri to stage a political show in Lahore that only produced some banner headlines but not much in substance Distrust and mistrust prevailed from the beginning to the end and nothing was achieved, except proving one point: It was obviously not manipulated by the deep state as it was alleged in the Balochistan political coup. Had it been so, and this is my analysis, Lahore would have been jammed, an indefinite sit-in (dharna) launched, police and ‘na-maloomafraad’ (the invisible miscreants or gullu butts) would have created scenes resulting in clashes and casualties, and a pervasive sense of uncertainty around the office of the Punjab Chief Minister, who has unofficially been named as the next PM by the leader of his party. This was all not needed as, after the Balochistan operation, other wheels of misfortune have continued to grind and now Shahbaz Sharif is facing loaded freight trains coming his way from all sides. First there is this spate of NAB notices in cases involving land scams in Lahore, the Multan Motorway, the mystery of the 56 companies that were created out of nowhere, and the insider trading scam in the Bank of Punjab. Then fresh movement has been initiated in the Hudaibiya case in the Supreme Court. In its suo moto drive, the apex court has gone into new avenues like cases of child sexual abuse, the state of the hospitals and drinking water etc. So why crush him in one fatal blow? All these are enough to bog down and in a short span of time oust the junior Sharif a la his big brother, who has gone into the Sheikh Mujibur Rehman mode. If all this is part of a deep state plan, so be it, but once Shahbaz Sharif is neutralised, the freight trains will move towards Islamabad where PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is waiting for his turn. The PM has an LNG case coming up, a new notice by NAB in the famous Circular Debt of Rs480 billion is almost ready as Senate Finance Committee has already sent some 3,000 documents to the NAB chief, his plans to quickly sell off PIA are raising not just eyebrows but activating many hidden hands. His tax amnesty plan is smelling foul. The conspiracy theory doing the rounds is that the NAB chief has been asked to recover at least $90 billion from these looters and plunderers and he has vowed that most of the country’s foreign debts will be repaid in time by his efforts. It looks like he has a very ambitious and determined strategy but the conspiracy theorists say it cannot be implemented unless the deep state was really behind him. Shame, if this is not so. The entire timeline of these conspiracies is also well defined in some minds. First the objective is to thwart the Senate polls, dissolve one or two provincial assemblies, get resignations of as many MNAs as possible, get the National Assembly dissolved, and then form a caretaker set up that takes care of the Sheikh Mujibs and Ishaq Dars of the system, within or outside the country, for as long as it may be needed. What I fear is that all these conspiracy theories may turn out to be just hot air and none of them may be possible to implement. National and international complications may develop, and much harsher measures may then have to be taken to put things right, at least in the manner the deep state thinks so. That would be a grave blow to the country and its existence as an independent sovereign state may be under threat. A lesser casualty may be the Pakistani version of democracy, which is so far turning out to be the best revenge against the people and the country itself. Who will then be blamed for such a state of affairs? Those who do not see eye to eye with the deep state, or the conspiracy theorists who have to object to everything on the basis of their wishy-washy idealism? This may be debated forever. But they have to come up with some answer to the critical question: If democracy and the corrupt jokers pursuing it keep extracting its revenge, do nothing positive, keep on drilling chainsaws in the body politics, turn it into a mummy and nobody stops the rout in time, how will this country be saved from implosion — economic, existential, physical, societal, and even geographic? Someone has to explain. Someone has try and save it! The writer is a senior journalist Published in Daily Times, January 19th 2018.