At the crossroads of history, there are times when one has to take a position — a position which may not be quintessentially correct, but which may be the best option to exercise for the larger good of the state and its people. That’s exactly where Pakistan finds itself today. Pakistan is a land that endured the humiliation of the (then) incumbent prime minister lying blatantly on the floor of the assembly regarding his assets and sources of their accumulation. It is also a land that watched in disgrace when the same prime minister made two speeches to the people, one after the other, which were mutually contradictory, and which jointly negated the contents of the speech he had earlier delivered in the parliament.It is also a land which beheld in mortification the (now disqualified) prime minister presenting ‘evidence’ to the Supreme Court (SC) which was in contravention of both the contents of the speech he had made in the parliament, and the speeches he made to the people. He forged documents and indulged in multiple criminal undertakings in a desperate bid to put across a case. It all unravelled disastrously. It is also a land which looks in utter amazement when the same former prime minister, in spite of the court’s adjudication to the contrary, claims that he has not lied, and has done no wrong. Now that he has been disqualified from holding any public office for life, he alleges that the court has acted out of bias.What gumption! What a land, this Pakistan! In other words, they are questioning the role and relevance of an independent judiciary. They believe that the judiciary, if allowed to exist at all, should be rendered subservient to the hollering of a few thousand people whipped to attend a political gathering on the orders of the local thugs. Rule by hordes of rowdies, brandishing sticks and knives, should be declared as an established norm for indemnifying the myriad crimes of the political mafiasOne can understand his frustration. There was a time, not so long ago, when he had the likes of the ignoble Justice Qayyum at his disposal. The guy could be virtually ordered on the phone what kind of judgment was required of the court, and it would be delivered promptly.There was also a time when the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was ruled by a shameless minion, Saifur Rehman, who had been placed there to protect his master’s interests and bring charges against his political opponents. Same was the case with every other state institution where virtual criminals controlled. In most of the cases, they still do. Their job was not to work to safeguard the interest of the state, but that of the former prime minister and his team of crooks and cronies. The state remained in the grip of this mafia which issued orders without any fear of consequences. Democracy was the song they would play in the face of any criticism of their manner of governance.The oldies and the twits of the political parties alike complain that the fate of politicians should be decided by the people, and they should be accorded respect. The de-jure prime minister has been very critical of the role of the judiciary. At a public meeting recently, he complained that the “people’s mandate has been dragged to courts”.In other words, they are questioning the role and relevance of an independent judiciary. They believe that the judiciary, if allowed to exist at all, should be rendered subservient to the hollering of a few thousand people whipped to attend a political gathering on the orders of the local thugs. Rule by hordes of rowdies, brandishing sticks and knives, should be declared as an established norm for indemnifying the myriad crimes of the political mafias. In other words, there should be no oversight to their criminal indulgences and they should be allowed to ravage the state assets at their despotic whims and fancies.Lest we forget, it is the same mafia which had approached the apex court to adjudicate in the matter of allegations of corruption against the former prime minister. It is also the same mafia which had celebrated the formation of the JIT by distributing sweets.But then, somehow, things changed!Instead of cowering in fear, the institutions stood up to their bullying. A realisation gained ground that the state needed strong institutions with enhanced capacities and powers as part of putting a viable and credible checks-and-balances mechanism in place. Unless that happens, and it is also given unimpeachable constitutional cover, the state will remain hostage to the vile machinations of the corrupt ruling mafias.The narrative that is being aggressively promoted is one of putting the entire blame for the woes of the state on the judiciary and the military. While these institutions may not be without blemish in their past conduct, there is little that can be said by way of a rational argument to drag them into any controversy in the current context.What, however, has definitely happened is that some institutions, most notably the judiciary and the NAB, have woken up from their long and deep slumber and are doing a job that they should have always been doing. Saying that the judiciary is acting on the orders of the military, or that the two institutions are acting in cahoots in destabilising the government and, by extension democracy, is a loaded attempt to take the attention away from their despicable misrule and tonnes of corruption of which actionable evidence is available.What is missing in all this is the role of the legislature. I hear lots of members reiterating the mantra of the supremacy of the parliament, but there is virtually none who would ensure that the institution actually acts like one and takes a position when it should — like when the former prime minister had lied so blatantly.Even if one were to concede that the judiciary has the support of the military in doing all this, what is wrong with that? The fact that it did not do so in the past when the Supreme Court was attacked by the goons of PML-N was wrong. Responding to a call by the apex court would be in conformity with article 190 of the constitution which binds all executive and judicial authorities throughout Pakistan to act in aid of the Supreme Court.The firing on the residence of Justice Ijazul Ehsan, the monitoring judge of the cases against the Sharif family, is not only a sad reflection of the increasing frustration on the part of the PML-N leadership, it also takes the existent ominous confrontation a notch further. All fingers would be pointing in their direction because their record bears testimony that they have resorted to violence in such matters in the past. It is not beyond them to do it again when the dice seems heavily loaded against them.It is a criminal mindset that we are dealing with. The ominous act may not bring them any relief, but would definitely cause further fragmentation in the national polity which is already showing signs of withering under mounting pressure. It is like stretching the tenuous link to a breaking point.The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think tank. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @RaoofHasanPublished in Daily Times, April 17th 2018.