On Sunday morning, a piece in DT stated COAS Gen Bajwa’s point of view regarding the recent and upcoming happenings in and outside Pakistan. The article paints Gen Bajwa (in his own words) as the saviour of democracy (from whom if one may dare to ask?) and lays out a blueprint for the establishments nefarious plans for the coming days. The piece starts off on a contradictory note since it talks about ‘preserving the integrity of all state institutions’. This comes in the wake of the ape judgment relying on a questionable interpretation of the constitution that booted out Nawaz Sharif as party head and snubbed the legislative power of the parliament. All of the above and more was conveyed to select group of journalists invited by the COAS in a discussion which lasted around four hours. It was further stressed that the monopoly of violence lies with state and miscreants challenging the writ of the state shall not be tolerated. While this statement partially holds true and the forces have gallantly fought through the length and breadth of this country to root out Islamic extremists challenging the writ of the state, it has been incredibly lenient when it comes to tackling non-state actors that (for now) are not hostile to the state of Pakistan. On top of that, last week, Milli Muslim League (a political faction drawing ‘inspiration’ from Hafiz Saeed) was cleared by the Islamabad High Court to be registered with the ECP despite the reservations of the interior ministry. The move comes in the aftermath of Pakistan being ‘greylisted’ by the FATF, with the sword of Damocles in shape of the impending threat of being blacklisted by June. When analysed with respect to the tall claims of ‘indiscriminate application of laws — anchored in the Constitution’, one is left confounded wondering what to make of such a statement. Perhaps the indiscriminate application is to be carried out in a discriminating fashion only targeting the ones who blasphemed by refusing to tow the roadmap of the deep state. For such condemned individuals, our legal system holds the same contempt that Dante held for people assuming neutrality in testing times and are sent packing for nondisclosure of an asset while absconder in high treason case makes merry dancing abroad after being granted medical leave for a backache. It is hard not to doubt its honourable intentions when it claims to be the Bastian and guardian of constitution and democracy, yet its past is riddled with numerous tales: the constitution being held in abeyance and regularisation of a despots’ ultra-constitutional actions. Without accusing any of the aggrieved parties of wrongdoing, the prudent course of action for all parties involved would be to sit down and iron out the differences since such differences have the potential to spill over into something far more chaotic COAS then categorically stated that the Pak Army of today is different from the forces of Gen Musharraf’s tenure and amongst other quotes the sacrifices rendered (which are and should be recognised, no mean feat to sacrifice your life) to restore peace in the land but from here the discussion goes downhill. The quote attributed to COAS states, “I saved democracy in this country, I am the biggest supporter of democracy.” This is where the problem arises. A little introspection should’ve been undertaken before making such a statement as to why democracy needed a saviour who constitutionally does not have a role except assisting in governance upon the convenience of the government and from whom was this rescue mission performed? The recent political engineering in Balochistan resulting in PMLN being ‘deposed’ and ‘independent’ senators being elected does not create an air of ease and thickens the atmosphere of mistrust between the institutions. This statement, unfortunately, raises more questions than it answers. The next assertion revolves around dispensing of duties with honesty and integrity, and unfortunately, every single person in this country fails on that account. Instead of focusing on our assigned roles, everyone is busy poking their nose in manners that do not concern them while their primary duty goes ignored and unattended. Off late, this dangerous trend has also infiltrated the other state institutions as well. Esteemed office bearers are now carrying out Shahbaz Sharif styled snap visits to inspect hospitals. Clearly, we as a nation are high on the messiah complex. The fifth point raised is, in fact, the most alarming and dangerous if taken as a statement of intent and pretty much confirms the fears of now retired Senator Farhatullah Baber, who stoically warned the dangers looming around the federation and how reversing the 18th amendment would weaken the federation and could possibly pose a serious challenge to our nationhood. This statement is especially reckless if considered with the ongoing civil rights movement in FATA, KP and Pashtun areas of Balochistan, with students demanding the rights guaranteed as citizens under the constitution. Former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is then squarely blamed for Pakistan being greylisted by the FATF. There are a million reasons why Pakistan got grey listed but the rather laughable tax to GDP ratio isn’t one of the considerations. The main accusation on Pakistan for such listing is its covert support for terrorist outfits, and numerous commentators have interpreted it as an arm-twisting manoeuvre by Uncle Sam for not towing the line regarding Afghanistan. What is even more disappointing is the fact that it was completely disregarded that Pakistan, till 2015, was greylisted by the FATF and this regime managed to be excluded from the list. Concerning the comment regarding tax to GDP ratio, as I stated earlier, it is rather shameful that it lies at 12 percent. But what is being ignored is that when the present regime took reigns, the numbers of filers stood at 700k which has gradually been pushed over 1.2 million tax — which, while a baby step, is nonetheless commendable. While it may not be empirically possible to decipher the intentions behind the need for such a press meet (while a full-fledged department of the forces overseas media affairs) and declaration of an agenda for the future, one wonders if such a move could’ve been more ill-timed. While the ruling party continues to cry foul claiming victimhood at the hands of the highest courts of the land, concerning the disqualification, removal from party head and eventually being kicked out of the Senate elections on flimsy pretexts, such statements at such a juncture will only suit their narrative. Without accusing any of the aggrieved parties of wrongdoing, the prudent course of action for all parties involved would be to sit down and iron out the differences since such differences have the potential to spill over into something far more chaotic. Our history is full of such clashes in the past. Only once has the majority gone head-on with the establishment and the results of not accepting the mandate of the majority fractured the fault lines and condemned us to the most embarrassing defeat. Today, once again, we are heading towards a situation similar to the first general election, and it seems increasingly apparent that the outcome of the polls too will be similar. A party that at present does not enjoy cordial terms seems headed for the clear majority, and the result may once again be a clash. One false move might condemn us to an inescapable downward spiral which might be irrecoverable. One only needs to look at Syria and Yemen to see what waits for the nations who instead of resolving matters amicably take up arms to settle matters. Despite feeling wronged for the larger interest, the stakeholders should engage in dialogue and iron out differences on a model similar to what Senator Rabbani proposed. Advisors and viziers might be advocating a decisive war to wipe out the enemy for good, but such learned individuals are as learned as the advisors to the King who advised him to don an expensive robe that could only be seen by the smartest ones. The King, instead of doing what was right, chose the easy path and strode around the streets wearing the magical robe till a kid called out loud that the emperor is naked. The ruckus jeered on; the mob had its merry way once the first stone was cast. Let’s hope that the powers that be do not choose the easy path but show the magnanimity and leadership expected from such positions and make the right choice and continue to exercise their constitutionally defined roles instead of ripping apart the social and democratic fabric of this country. The writer is a lecturer at Beaconhouse National University Published in Daily Times, March 17th 2018.